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Outstanding local premiere of “In the Heights” at MMT

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There are few shows where superlatives fail me.

I urge you, if there is one local non-union musical theater production you go to this season, go to this one – “In the Heights” at Music Mountain Theatre in Lambertville, N.J. The story is moving, the music and dance was Broadway groundbreaking in 2008. And, yes, both dance and music will wow you.

And go for breakout performances here that make you think that the actors got waivers from Equity. Kudos to director Liz Gonzalez, choreographer Valeen Williams and musical director, Jenna Parrilla Alvino.

“In the Heights” is an immigrant story based in New York City’s Washington Heights section. It speaks of upward mobility and dreams, class prejudice and the concept of home. I don’t cry or get chills in the theater from moments in a production often. I did here.

Tara Keelen plays Nina, an ex-Stanford student come back to the barrio, not able to keep up with her studies. Tara is Broadway quality. Amazing singing and acting. Her romantic counterpart, Benny, is played by Jarret Martin. Martin equals her professionally with his nuance, energy and swag.

Tristan Takacs is Usnavi, narrator and bodega owner, originally played by Lynn Manuel Miranda (composer), and is a rhyming machine who gets you to a cry happy state at The Finale, which raps about family, community and love. If you are not affected by that, you have no pulse.

Jo Wymer gets you wistful for your own abuela (grandmother) and tugs your heart with her solos. Jen Pilchman as Camila, Nina’s mother, has a well-acted moment laying down the law with her solo “Enough.”

Angelica Blickenderfer is sassy, sexy and quite the dancer as Vanessa, Usnavi’s love interest. Noelle Joy Fiorentino is comic perfection as Daniela, the hair salon owner.

The show pulsates with energy. It moves the feet and moves the heart. Go to “In the Heights.” It continues through July 24. Visit the theater online for information.


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