The musical In the Heights is in production at Players by the Sea in Jacksonville Beach through Aug. 12 and shouldn’t be missed.
The Tony Award-winner for Best Musical features music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who authored the hit musical, Hamilton. In the Heights tells a compelling story of a Hispanic community in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood.
Players’ production is brilliantly directed by Joe Kemper who assembled an extremely talented cast of actors, singers, dancers and musicians to bring this big story to life with remarkable energy. The production features dazzling choreography by Dewitt Cooper and a sensational mix of music including hip hop and salsa under the skillful direction of Anthony Felton. Players’ mainstage is beautifully transformed into the Washington Heights neighborhood and includes a locally owned cab company, a hair salon and a bodega.
The story centers on Usnavi, played by Matias De La Flor, who runs the bodega, dreams of a better life and has an affection for Vanessa, played by Rhea Ailani, a sexy hairdresser with big dreams of her own. Also central to the story is Nina, played by Zoe Rosas, a Stanford scholarship student who has returned home with a secret. Isaiah Turner as Benny plays Nina’s love interest and Mario Noto plays Sonny, Usnavi’s cousin. Jessica Stewart gives a compassionate performance as Abuela, Usnavi’s grandmother and the neighborhood matriarch. The colorful characters also include Andrea Cristina Vilarino as Daniela, Jay Sevilla as Carla, Andrew Phoenix as Graffiti Pete, Raquel Lopez Cory as Camila, Elijah Turner as Piragua and Marcos Miranda as Kevin.
The high-energy ensemble includes Cameron Thomas (dance captain), Emely Cuestes, Gemma Smith, Angie Acedera, Robersy Romero, Mia Vasquez, Javon Wrighten, Jamil Abdur-Rahmen, Alex Aponte (dance captain), Walter Johnson, Darnell Bennett and Joel Oliver (dance captain).
In addition to Felton on piano, the band includes David Ott on guitar, Sean Tillis on bass, Bit Risner on trumpet, Alexander Hernandez on woodwinds and Louis Ocasio on drums.
The creative team for the striking set design includes production manager Jereme Raickett, technical director Nate Cimmino, scenic and lighting designer Daniel Dungan, scenic charge artist Katie Dawson and properties by Stephen D’Angelo. Marquis Jarod’s costumes are sexy and authentic. The creative team also includes assistant director Sarah Stepp, stage manager Emilee Paris and assistant stage managers Brandon Paris and Zach Polendo.
Performances continue through Aug. 12. Curtain is at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $28 general admission, $25 seniors, students and military. Thursday nights are Student Nights – Half price tickets at the door with a valid student ID. For tickets, visit playersbythesea.org.