Paramount Broadway series opens with ‘Heights’
By Randall G. Mielke For Sun-Times Media September 5, 2013 8:42AM
From left, Caitlainne Rose Gurreri (Vanessa), Nick Demeris (Usnavi), Kris Santiago (Graffiti Pete) and Paula Scrofano (Abuela Claudia) are featured in "In the Heights" at Aurora's Paramount Theatre Sept. 11-Oct. 6. | File photo
‘In the Heights’
♦ Sept. 11-Oct. 6
♦ Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora
♦ Tickets, $36.90-$49.90
♦ (630) 896-6666
Updated: September 5, 2013 8:42AM
Over the last two years, director Rachel Rockwell has been at the helm for such familiar musicals in the Paramount Theatre’s Broadway Series as “Hair,” “Annie” and “The Music Man.”
Her latest directing endeavor for the Paramount is “In the Heights,” a contemporary musical that not only is receiving its first local professional staging at the Paramount, but also has a different way of storytelling.
“Clarity and focus are critical in this show,” Rockwell said. “There may be four people singing all different thoughts at the same time. It is up to me, choreographer Katie Spelman and lighting designer Jesse Klug to highlight ‘Who has the ball?’ at any given time.
“This is one of the first shows in years with wholly original storytelling,” Rockwell continued. “It’s so rare.”
“In the Heights,” which features music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda and a book by Quiara Alegría Hudes, will be presented from Sept. 11 to Oct. 6 at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora. The show follows three days in the lives of residents living in the largely Hispanic neighborhood of Washington Heights in New York City.
“It is about the American dream pursued if you are Puerto Rican or Cuban, but live in America,” Rockwell said. “What parts of your culture do you take with you and what parts do you let go? The family story it presents is universal. If you want to be moved emotionally, it’s a great story for everyone.”
“In the Heights” ran for 1,184 performances on Broadway from March 9, 2008, to Jan. 9, 2011. The show was nominated for 13 Tony Awards in 2008 and won four: Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Choreography and Best Orchestrations.
Rockwell sees her greatest challenge as keeping the action in the show going.
“We have to keep Washington Heights moving at all times,” she said, “even in the quiet moments. The street is never quiet, so we have balance and focus. People are always present, so it makes it very layered and complicated.
“We are talking about an entire neighborhood,” Rockwell continued. “If you glance to your right there is an interesting story going on. At another location the boys may be doing some break dancing. The show is very rich in terms of the lives that percolate throughout the piece.”
“In the Heights” starts the third season of Broadway Series musicals for the Paramount Theatre. The other shows to be presented this season are “Miss Saigon,” “42nd Street” and “RENT.” Rockwell believes the success of the series is based on several factors.
“The community was hungry for good theater,” she said. “The Paramount was smart in the shows that they selected and got the finest actors to be in these productions. More than 45,000 people saw ‘Annie’. If you went there on a Saturday night during the run, you saw that families are making this their new tradition. It’s really cool. It feels like an event.
“It is great to get in on the beginning of something,” Rockwell said about her being involved as a director of shows in each of the Broadway Series three seasons. “You feel like a part of where it goes and what it is.”