Lin-Manuel Miranda's Broadway musical Hamilton has been in the news a lot during the past year. First, for its critical and commercial success. Then because at the end of a performance last November, its cast asked Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who was in the audience, to work for all Americans, prompting President Trump to call for a boycott of the play. It continued to sell out.
But before Hamilton, Miranda had another Broadway hit, in 2008, with In the Heights. Currently onstage at Portland Community College, it's a slice of life in a tight-knit immigrant community in the NYC neighborhood of Washington Heights.
Based on a book by Quiara Alegría Hudes (whose work, coincidentally, is the subject of Profile Theatre's current season), the plot revolves around the ominous return of Nina Rosario (Jade Tate), who has just been suspended after her first year on scholarship at Stanford. There is no clear protagonist, but she and Dominican bodega owner Usnavi (Curtis Gonzalez) command the show, and people from the surrounding community tend to be glued to their storylines.
The set is a vivacious New York street—bodega and all—shipped straight from the Broadway stage. Obtaining this artifact is an extraordinary feat for a local college musical, and it serves as a fitting backdrop for the show's '90s-era hip-hop.
Though its aesthetic is top notch, PCC's rendering is occasionally clumsy: It begins with a dance routine in the dark, leading one to question the whereabouts of the lighting crew.
However, there is also scattered talent. Mason Crongeyer is new to theater entirely, but he exhibits charismatic confidence as Nina's love interest, Benny, who is employed by the linousine service owned by Nina's parents. Zachary Johnson, who plays Kevin Rosario, Nina's father, enjoys a solemn solo near the end.
Despite the occasional fumbles in PCC's production, the play transmits an earnest message about valuing humanity. Written pre-Trump and pre-Hamilton, the apparent politics are somewhat out of the show's control. Still, it's a task it handles with grace.
SEE IT: In the Heights plays at PCC Performing Arts Center, 12000 SW 49th Ave., pcc.edu. 7 pm Friday-Saturday and 2 pm Sunday, through March 19. Additional shows 7 pm Wednesday, March 15 and 11 am Thursday, March 16. $10-$15.