SALT LAKE CITY — The Grand Theatre has a beautiful production of In the Heights (with the music, lyrics and concept by Lin-Manuel Miranda and a book by Quiara Alegra Hudes). In the Heights is set in Washington Heights — a largely Hispanic neighborhood in upper Manhattan. Directed and choreographed by Vincent Ortega, this production is fantastic, not only in story telling but in portraying the reality of life in New York City.

Show closes June 10, 2023.

The story begins with lights up on Usnavi, who owns the corner grocery shop after inheriting it from his Dominican parents. Portrayed by Armando Serrano, Usnavi is a fixture in the neighborhood, knowing each customer that comes and goes and selling them their weekly lottery ticket. One day we find out that someone from the barrio has won the jackpot. Serrano played Usnavi in a charming but unassuming way. Serrano gave the audience beautiful small moments, such as Usnavi’s interactions with Abuela Claudia (portrayed by Sonia Maritza Inoa-Rosado Maughan), and mentoring his cousin, Sonny (played by Avery Sims). Sims is delightful and youthful. I enjoyed his physicality, expertly portrayed by his mannerisms. Sims also has an incredible voice that is wonderful to listen to, but I what I really enjoyed his comedic timing.

Nina (played by Aisha Marie Garcia) is praised in the neighborhood as “the one who got out” by earning scholarship to Stanford. Unfortunately, she must tell her family that she lost her scholarship. Aisha Marie Garcia aptly display the guilt and disappointment about losing her way. The number “Breathe” was a highlight in first act. Seeing Nina interact with her neighbors while being completely alone is beautiful, sad, and yet hopeful. While visiting the family business, Nina connects with Benny (played by Onias Snuka), a young African American man who works for her dad in the car service, running the dispatch. While Nina’s dad, Kevin Rosario (played by Monte Garcia), disapproves of the relationship between Benny and Nina, Monte Garcia’s make it clear that it is because Kevin has the best intentions and desires for his daughter. I found Nina and Kevin’s relationship both relatable, sweet, and expertly acted — probably because the two performers are father and daughter off stage, too. Garcia as Kevin sings one of the most touching songs in act two, “Atención” that brought me to tears.

Camila Rosario, Nina’s mom (played by Sophia Valdez Davis) has a wonderful scene where she calls the family on the carpet with her song “Enough.” Davis’s vocals were strong, though, the blocking for the song was awkward. The actors did not seem to feel secure in where they should stand. The scene has a lot of potential to show the audience how the Rosario family functions, but Ortega’s direction missed that opportunity.

The salon scenes are some of the most enjoyable moments. Daniela (played by Whitney Harris Gutierrez) owns the salon, and she is the kind of woman that takes care of her people. Guttierez is believable as a strong sassy woman who also runs a business, commands the gossip and keeps tabs on what is happening. As Carla, Savannah Ruiz creates a naïve and hilarious character with perfect timing and expressions. In “No Mi Diga” the gossiping between these two women (and others in the scene) felt real, funny and honest.

“Carnaval Del Barrio” was the perfect example of a story telling song that makes me want to dance along with the characters and revel in the pride they had for their (or their parents’) homelands. Ortega’s choreography was inventive and cool, and throughout the play it showed a mix of several styles. The high energy movement kept me invested throughout the production. Nothing looked out of place for the streets of New York.

The set design by Halee Rasmussen is beautiful. The set has some wonderful details, the George Washington Bridge, the roll up metal doors, the air conditioners hanging out windows. It really gives the flavor of New York City. The usable retractable fire escape was delightful, (though I wish it had been used more). The lighting by Paul Yeates, was dynamic, colorful and bold. Saturated colors really make the stage feel like summer in New York.

At two and a half hours, In the Heights at The Grand Theatre is an investment, but well worth the time. The show is beautifully acted and the sense of community is present throughout the evening. In the Heights is a vibrant slice of New York transported to Salt Lake City by a talented cast of actors who deserve the rapt atención of its audience.

The Grand Theatre Company production of In the Heights plays Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 PM through June 10, with additional performances at 2 PM on May 27 and June 3, at Salt Lake Community College’s Salt Lake City campus (1575 South State Street, Salt Lake City). Tickets are $15-30. For more information, visit

These reviews are made possible by a grant from the Salt Lake County Zoo, Arts, and Parks program.