Local Reviews: NYU/GAP’s In the Heights

It would be nearly impossible to pinpoint the most essential aspect of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning musical In the Heights, but one feature that is undoubtedly integral to the show is movement. If you were fortunate enough to catch In the Heights on Broadway, then you were probably captivated by its choreography. Whether the actors were dancing in sync or scattering around the vast stage like electrons in an atom, their collective movements were truly spellbinding.

Now picture the musical taking place on a stage the size of a suburban bedroom floor. That’s exactly what a group of NYU students did last night during the opening night of their weeklong production of Miranda’s hit, and somehow, they more than pulled it off. Even beyond the impressive usages of space and movement, the Tisch students created a version of the production that anyone would be lucky to see.

NYU’s production of In the Heights takes place in the small Shop Theatre inside the Tisch Building at 721 Broadway, and it is billed as a GAP production, which essentially means that it is produced, directed, and acted by current NYU students. For those who are unfamiliar with the musical, it showcases the intertwined, hilarious, romantic, and dramatic lives of members of a small community in Washington Heights over a period of three days.

As previously mentioned, the ability of the cast to fully take advantage of the intimate space — as exemplified by the beautifully choreographed club scene at the end of the first act — is awe-inspiring. But in addition, the cast boasts some masterly acting skills, stunning voices, and sharp comedic talent, which all come together to make the show a strong success.

When it comes to acting, the gentlemen of the cast shine the brightest. Joe Rivera nails protagonist Usnavi’s dorky swagger, transitioning from cocky raps to awkward conversations with Lauren Annunziata’s Vanessa seamlessly. And last night, a monologue by Alexander Rivera’s Mr. Rosario in the first act literally brought a small group of viewers in the front row to tears.

When it comes to the voices, however, the women of the cast are hands-down the most impressive. Whether she is belting in “Blackout” or nearly whispering in “Sunrise,” Melanie Herrera shines as Nina. And Annunziata’s projection gives guaranteed goosebumps, especially on songs like “Champagne.”

Lastly, if there’s one aspect of In the Heights that ties everything together, it’s the show’s comedy. Fortunately for NYU’s production, Johanna Nchekwube and Amanda Pinto are hysterical as the owner and hairdresser of the local salon, Daniela’s. Their comedic timing is on point throughout the show, such as when Nina admits to the ladies that she dropped out of college, to which Daniela flatly responds, “Well that’s a shitty piece of news.”

NYU’s current production of In the Heights is sold out through the week, but you can follow all of its GAP productions here.

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