The standing ovation spoke for itself at the opening night of “In the Heights” in Jerusalem this evening.
The sold-out audience was drawn into another world for 2.5 hours, precisely the world of Washington Heights and its Spanish speaking immigrant community with characters hailing from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico amongst other places.
Though the cultures presented may be foreign to some, the stories relayed in the musical are ones that can resonate with us all: navigating the expectations that our families have for us and the expectations that we have for ourselves, appreciating the community around us while also striving for something more and of course the constant search and hope for love and connection.
The cast is strong and the show was compelling with standout performances from lead actors Maya Kristal Tenembaum (Nina), Yair Farkas (Benny), and Shimi Herman (Usnavi). Shir Arbiv brought a lot of commitment to her role as the flirtatious and saucy Vanessa, and the supporting characters added a layer of depth and flare to the show with notable performances from Gadi Zaig (Sonny) who had impeccable timing and provided tremendous comic relief as Usnavi’s kid cousin, Oren Habot (Kevin Rosario) who poignantly captured the struggle to provide for his family and make something of his life, Inbal Caplan (Camila Rosario) who shined as the firm but sassy mama who keeps her family together, Gabrielle Shine (Abuela Claudia) who bore witness to the evolution of the neighborhood and its residents in a timeless way, and of course Shlomit Leah Kovalski (Daniela) whose character exuded flavor and personality and who is always a pleasure to watch on the stage.
Even the accents seemed authentic and made it easy for the audience to be drawn into the ethnic fabric of Washington Heights. Admittedly, I found it difficult to follow parts of the accented dialogue, so I did miss sections of the lyrics as the hip-hop sections are by their nature very fast-paced. However, the excellent acting, masterful orchestra, colorful wardrobes (courtesy of Dena Davies) and action-packed dance sequences made up for it and kept the audience happily engaged.
The Israeli debut of “In The Heights” is presented by Starcatcher Productions at Beit Shmuel’s Hirsch Theater under the leadership of Richie Mann (producer), Danny Freedman (choreographer), Jeff Rosenschein (music director), and Yaeli Greenblatt and Eli Kaplan Wildmann (co-directors). There are only 5 performances left on March 2nd at 20:30, March 6th at 19:00, March 7th at 17:00, March 7th at 20:30 and March 9th at 20:30. Tickets can be purchased at https://beitshmuel.smarticket.co.il/In_The_Heights