FHSU Encore Series saves best show for last

On Wednesday evening, the multiple Tony award-winning Broadway musical "In the Heights" concluded the season's Encore Series on a high note. The "heights" are Washington Heights on the upper west side of New York City, a neighborhood of people from the Dominican Republic. The plot is based on the demography of New York City Hispanics.

The fast-paced production brings both people and neighborhood to life without a dull moment. The large cast of singing, dancing actors does an outstanding job. Rap music predominates, but there are several good ballads, too. A good band, not a recording, plays in the pit. The set becomes part of the action as the characters act out their present reality and express their hopes and dreams for the future.

Usnavi starts the show with a rap number describing life in the heights. The whole company joins him, enlivening the stage with color and motion in the first of many such moments.

Nina Rosario, the hope of her family and friends, is back from a miserable freshman year at Stanford. Exhausted from trying to work two jobs and study, too, she has lost her scholarship. Her parents, experiencing financial problems, are devastated by this. Her father (an especially good singer) voices his dismay at the uselessness of his work and the frustration of his hopes for the future. He decides to sell his business so he can send Nina back to Stanford.

However, Nina doesn't want to go. She and Benny, not from the Dominican Republic, but a black guy who works for Kevin, are falling in love.

Then Abuela (grandma) Claudia (a great singer with a huge voice) sings the show's pivotal number "Paciencia y Fe" ("Patience and Faith"), a ballad that inspires everyone. Later, she tells Usnavi she has won the lottery.

Things happen thick and fast after that. The power failure enables Benny and Nina to spend the night together. Grandma Claudia urges Usnavi to return to the Dominican Republic. Later, Usnavi announces her death. Some great changes occur. Rosario's changes hands, Usnavi sells his deli and Daniela moves her salon to the Grand Concourse of the Bronx. Nina decides to return to Stanford. Usnavi resolves to stay home.

Ruth Firestone is a supporter of music and theater in Hays.