Wednesday, September 12, 2018

In The Heights at Shakes

When I worked as an illustrator in NYC I lived for 10 years in Washington Heights. Rent was cheap and I had a large railroad style apartment a few blocks for the George Washington Bridge. In the Heights based on a book by Quiara Algria Hudes and with music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda is set in my old stomping grounds. The corner bodega in Jim Hunter's set could very well have been the spot I went each week to get milk and eggs.

I had seen In the Heights once before and I love the shows guttural energy. The show opens with Usnavi (Ernie Pruneda) opening his corner bodega early in the morning as the Heights come alive. The lyrics are delivered in fast paced rap and before long I was addicted to the beat. Sonny (Zach Infante) is Usnavi's sassy, superficially lazy, yet ambitious younger cousin. Abuela Claudia (Alina Alcántara) is the loving matriarch of the barrio who knows everybody and is like a grandmother to all. She looked after Usnavi when his parents died. He was born on the long passage to America, and he was named by the first American sign his parents saw, US Navey.

Across from Usnavi's shop is a taxi dispatch office called Rosario's. Mr Rosario (Juan Cantú) has invested in his daughter Nina's (Iliana Garcia) college education so she can have a better life than his. She becomes a shining hope for the entire neighborhood that it is possible to live the American dream. She returns to the Heights and is welcomed by everyone. Benny (Deon'te Goodman) is working dispatch although struggling since his Spanish is weak. In a playful way, Nina teaches Benny how to brush up on his Spanish. There is clearly chemistry between them. Nina confesses that she could not keep up with the work load to pay for books she didn't have time to read at college. There is chaos in the Rosario household when this bomb shell hits.

Usnavi and Nina's stories run parallel with aspirations to live the American dream seemingly stifled in their North Manhattan neighborhood. They both come to realize however that the vibrant culture of where they are is as important as their dreams and aspirations and both are important for their future.

In the Heights from September 12 through October 7, 2018 don't miss it.
Shakes (812 E Rollins St, Orlando, FL 32803)
Tickets are between $22 and $42

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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