The now-running production of “In the Heights” at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora bursts onto this west suburban stage with the kind of exuberance and enthusiasm Chicago area audiences have come to expect from Director Rachel Rockwell.
Here again, Rockwell has assembled a stellar cast, a stunning set and rich and powerful orchestration that combines to create another great night at the theater.
The story, conceived by and featuring music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, with a book by Pulitzer Prize- winner Quiara Alegría Hudes, takes the audience to a Latino neighborhood on New York’s 183rd Street.
Hopes and dreams are still on the upswing, while others seem to be shattering, pulling the neighborhood together to lift up those that seem to be on the verge of disappearing, even if that means sacrificing the things once thought most important.
The set, filled with bustling streets and busy shops that friends, neighbors, shop keepers and customers hurry in and out of is a replica of the one used in the original Broadway production, complete with a backdrop of the Brooklyn Bridge.
With the Paramount Theatre Orchestra led by Tom Vendafreddo, the rap, pulsing Latin music and ballads are propelled by the talent of the singing and dancing cast. Choreography by Katie Spelman is lively and nonstop.
Great performances in this ensemble cast include those by Christina Nieves as Nina, whose fine voice shines as she arrives home from Stanford University to tell her family and friends that she quit going to school and won’t be returning. Nick Demeris also gives a stunning performance as Usnavi.
Jonathan Butler-Duplessis is wonderful as Benny and Caitlainne Rose Gurreri plays an adorable Vanessa. Other great performances include Lillian Castillo (Carla), Luis Herera (Sonny), Paula Scrofano (Abuela Cladia) and Keely Vasquez (Daniela).