IN THE HEIGHTS – Hits the heights in San Francisco

Now playing at the Curran Theatre through June 13th

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By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

IN THE HEIGHTS is a fabulous must-see musical theatre experience. At first glance the exposed set draws the audience into the complex world of a Manhattan community whose mixed roots and cultural ties reflect an energy and pulse familiar to many in San Francisco. Designed by Anna Louizos (Avenue Q, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas), the design depicts a conjunction in the Washington Heights area around 180th – where windows are kept open in the summer and everybody’s business is the subject at everybody’s business. “Tell me something I don’t know” sing the girls at Vanessa’s beauty salon. The lyrics and music by Tony Award-winning Lin-Manuel Miranda incorporate rhythms and themes of its largely Dominican, Cuban and Puerto Rican neighbors, rounded out by rap, salsa, and standard ballads. In the Heights finds commonality with diverse musical styles, it celebrates lyrical speech in a finely-tuned script, it is packed with great numbers for strong and fiery vocalists, and its non-stop energy bursts with precision choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler. The ensemble of this National Tour is the tightest and best since the Broadway-bound production of A Chorus Linein 2008. In The Heights is the richest Broadway musical around.

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The National Touring Company

Photo, Joan Marcus

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KYLE BELTRAN
Photo, Joan Marcus

The hero of the story, “Usnavi” (named from a US Navy sign) is carried by Kyle Bertran. As the operator of the local bodega and with the best coffee around, Usnavi is the hero and hope of a community facing sudden realizations and change. Kyle Bertran is all at once compelling and impishly desirable. His delivery of the poetic rap is easy-going and clear. There’s something and somebody for everyone in this continuum of music peppered with dialogue from a cast that actually includes characters older than 40. The heart of the neighborhood is the abuela figure – everyone’s adopted grandmother, “Claudia”, played by the vocally hot Elise Santora. She is the keeper of the flame, of memories and dreams. She also holds a winning Lottery ticket purchased at Usnavi’s bodega. It will pump new life into the barrio.

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Elisa Santora and Arielle Jacobs
Photo, Joan Marcus

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Sabrina Sloan, Isabel Santiago, Arielle Jacobs and Genny Lis Padilla
Photo, Janet Macoska

The production is in residence at the Curran until June 13th. The cast of this National Tour is across-the-board superb, filled by “triple-threats” whose acting, singing, and dancing chops are a match for the New York show. Also featured are Jose-Luis Lopez (Graffiti Pete), David Baida (Piragua Guy), Genny Lis Padilla (Carla), Isabel Santiago (Daniela), Sabrina Sloan (Vanessa), Arielle Jacobs (Nina), Daniel Bolero (Kevin), Natalie Toro (Camila), Shaun Taylor-Corbett (Sonny), and Rogelio Douglas Jr. (Benny). In the Heights garnered 13 Tony nominations and collected four wins as Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Choreography (Andy Blankenbuehler), and Best Orchestrations (Alex Lacamoire and Bill Sherman).
Click here to order tickets on-line: In The Heights

In The Heights – At the 2008 Tony Awards

Click on the photo to order the Original Broadway Cast recording:
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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.


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