Gorgeous Sets and Outstanding Voices Make In the Heights at NCT a Feast for the Eye and Ear

NCT's home-grown production of In the Heights runs Oct. 16-21 (photo by Curtis Brown Photography)
NCT's home-grown production of In the Heights runs Oct. 16-21 (photo by Curtis Brown Photography)
NCT's home-grown production of In the Heights runs Oct. 16-21 (photo by Curtis Brown Photography)
NCT’s home-grown production of In the Heights runs Oct. 16-21 (photo by Curtis Brown Photography)

This North Carolina Theatre‘s production of In the Heights comes to us from Lin-Manuel Miranda, the man-of-the-moment and Broadway darling responsible for the smash Broadway hit Hamilton. That show is apparently sold out on Broadway for the next few years, or thereabouts. While the touring production of Hamilton will play the Durham Performing Arts Center Tuesday-Sunday, Nov. 6th though Dec. 2nd, good luck securing a coveted ticket to that show for less than the cost of a small car! But we digress.

In the Heights at NCT is set in Washington Heights, a gritty borough in New York City. Under the footings of a towering bridge span, small immigrant-run business owners struggle to stay afloat. At the hair salon, the taxi service, and the grocery store (“bodega“) we meet and get to know the residents of this rough-and-tumble neighborhood. Most are from places like the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Mexico, and they bring to the area a distinctly Latin flavor and sound. And of the folks in the Heights dream of a different life, a different place.

There is Nina (Cristina Sastre), who is struggling financially and academically at college. As the first of her family to pursue a degree, she carries the hopes and dreams of all of her ancestors on her shoulders. She flirts with Benny (Nick Sanchez), the African-American “honorary” Latino, who works for Nina’s family-run taxi service.

The In the Heights cast includes (from left) Elizabeth M. Quesada as Carla, Genny Lis Padilla as Daniela, and Melanie Sierra as Vanessa (photo by Curtis Brown Photography)
North Carolina Theatre‘s cast for In the Heights includes (from left) Elizabeth M. Quesada as Carla, Genny Lis Padilla as Daniela, and Melanie Sierra as Vanessa (photo by Curtis Brown Photography)

Daniela (Genny Lis Padilla), Carla (Elizabeth M. Quesada), and Vanessa (Melanie Sierra) style hair for the locals; but their salon is being forced to move to a lower-rent district.

The glue that holds the community together is Usnavi (Andres Quintero), who took over the bodega when he lost his parents. Usnavi watches over and takes care of the aging Abuela (“Grandma”) Claudia (Nicole Paloma Sarro), a woman who raised the parentless Usnavi.

While the residents struggle to get by, we see through their treatment each other that they are rich indeed, with strong family ties, friendships, and the unbreakable bond of a close-knit community.

The North Carolina Theatre's Oct. 16-21 production of <em>In the Heights</em> stars (from left) Nick Sanchez as Benny, Andres Quintero as Usnavi, and Reed LoRenzo Shannon as Sonny (photo by Curtis Brown Photography)
The North Carolina Theatre‘s Oct. 16-21 production of In the Heights stars (from left) Nick Sanchez as Benny, Andres Quintero as Usnavi, and Reed LoRenzo Shannon as Sonny (photo by Curtis Brown Photography)

The story is told, sung, and danced with urban flair, with a range of hip-hop, rap, salsa, and a Latin music getting the audience toe-tapping. Even with this variety of music, the show clocks in at almost 2.5 hours, which is a lot to ask of today’s audience. The redemption for us was that the diverging story lines did not end as they would in a typical Hollywood movie.

From the Department of Picky-Picky: The voices were outstanding across the board, but the sound system was strangely fuzzy, and the lyrics were often lost in a muddle.

Ultimately, we liked the show. The story treatment was interesting, the stage gorgeous, and the use of the ensemble players and the set really made us feel that we were getting an authentic glimpse into another culture — and learning some Spanish to boot.

Nick Sanchez and Cristina Sastre star as Benny and Nina in In the Heights (photo by Curtis Brown Photography)
Nick Sanchez and Cristina Sastre star as Benny and Nina (photo by Curtis Brown Photography)

SECOND OPINION: Oct. 17th Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh BWW Review by Jeffrey Kare: https://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Review-North-Carolina-Theatres-IN-THE-HEIGHTS-20181017 and Oct. 12th BWW Interview with actors Genny Lis Padilla and David Guzman, conducted by Jeffrey Kare: https://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Interview-Genny-Lis-Padilla-David-Guzman-of-North-Carolina-Theatres-IN-THE-HEIGHTS-20181012; Oct. 17th Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Roy C. Dicks: https://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=9132; Oct. 17th Raleigh, NC USAOnstage Raleigh review by Karen Topham: http://chicagoonstage.com/usa-onstage-nc-muchas-alabanzas-high-praise-for-north-carolina-theatres-in-the-heights/; Oct. 16th Raleigh, NC WNCN/CBS 17 interview with actors Nick Sanchez and Christina Sastre, conducted by Taniya Wright: https://www.cbs17.com/dl365/entertainment/cast-members-from-lin-manuel-miranda-s-in-the-heights-stop-by-cbs-17/1528281173; Oct. 10th Raleigh, NC Triangle Arts Review interview with actress Carly Prentis Jones, conducted by Anika Willis: http://www.triangleartsreview.com/home/5-questions-with-carly-prentis-jones-who-portrays-camila-in-north-carolina-theatres-upcoming-production-of-in-the-heights and Oct. 9th interview with actor Reed LoRenzo Shannon, conducted by Anika Willis: http://www.triangleartsreview.com/home/5-questions-with-reed-lorenzo-shannon-who-will-portray-sonny-in-north-carolina-theatres-upcoming-production-of-in-the-heights; and Oct. 8th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: https://indyweek.com/events/heights/. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Oct. 17th Triangle Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2018/10/nct-kicks-off-its-2018-19-season-with-multiple-tony-winner-in-the-heights/.)

The North Carolina Theatre presents IN THE HEIGHTS at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 18 and 19 and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 20 and 21 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.

TICKETS: $25.15-$99.15, except $25 college-student tickets.


NCT Box Office: 919-831-6941, ext. 6944, or http://www.nctheatre.com/tickets/season-tickets.

Ticketmaster: 800-745-3000 or https://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/369155/2492447.

GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-831-6941, ext. 6949; groups@nctheatre.com; or http://nctheatre.com/groups.

SHOW: https://nctheatre.com/shows/in-the-heights, https://www.facebook.com/events/209657156396353/, and http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/event/north-carolina-theatre-in-the-heights-9124.

2018-19 SEASON: https://nctheatre.com/show-season/201819-season.

NCT NEWS RELEASES: https://nctheatre.com/blog/nc-theatre-goes-global-panel-discussion and https://nctheatre.com/blog/nc-theatre-announces-casting-heights.

PRESENTER: http://www.nctheatre.com/, https://www.facebook.com/nctheatre, https://twitter.com/nctheatre, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Carolina_Theatre, and http://www.youtube.com/user/nctheatre.

NCT BLOG (Stage Notes): http://www.nctheatre.com/stage-notes.

VENUE: http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/venue/memorial-auditorium.

DIRECTIONS: http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/directions.

PARKING: http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/parking.

NOTE 1: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20th, performance.

NOTE 2: At 4:30 p.m., after the 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20th, performance, NCT will host a FREE panel discussion and audience talkback, moderated by psychiatrist and El Futuro executive director David Lucas “Luke” Smith, MD. The panel speaking on issues of concern to to North Carolina’s Hispanic community will include cast member Andres Quintero and Raleigh community leaders. For details, click here.


In the Heights (2007 Off-Broadway and 2008 Broadway musical): http://www.rnh.com/show/50/In-the-Heights (Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization) and http://www.lortel.org/Archives/Production/4439 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/in-the-heights-465744 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_the_heights (Wikipedia).

Lin-Manuel Miranda (music and lyrics): http://linmanuel.com/ (official website), http://www.lortel.org/Archives/CreditableEntity/34364 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/lin-manuel-miranda-459893 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0592135/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lin-Manuel_Miranda (Wikipedia).

Quiara Alegría Hudes (book): http://www.quiara.com/quiara.com/Index.html (official website), http://www.lortel.org/Archives/CreditableEntity/34365 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/quiara-alegra-hudes-459483 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm3730005/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quiara_Alegr%C3%ADa_Hudes (Wikipedia).

Michael Balderrama (NCT guest director and choreographer): http://www.michaelbalderrama.com/ (official website), http://www.lortel.org/Archives/CreditableEntity/34463 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/michael-balderrama-30721 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm3056713/ (Internet Movie Database), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Balderrama (Wikipedia).


Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she’s not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Click here to read her reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.