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"Into the Heights"

Music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, book by Quiara Alegría Hudes
Produced by: Palo Alto Players
Featuring: Jia Taylor as Vanessa, Linda Piccone as Abuela, Dimitri Woods as Benny, Rudy Fuentes as Usnavi, Dave Leon as Kevin, Vanessa Alvarez as Daniela, Lucy Duran as Carla, Brian Conway as Sonny, Sasha Motalygo as Camila, Alexa Ortega as Nina and Mark Alabanza as Piragua Guy. Male ensemble includes Efrain Lazcano, Benjamin Lim, Andrew Kracht and Conor McClure. Female ensemble includes Evy Vaughan, Elana Ron, Camille Edralin and Yuliya Eydelnant
Directed by: Alex Perez
When: September 13-29, 2013
Where: Lucie Stern Theater, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto
Tickets: $23-$45(Discounts available to seniors [62+] and students with current ID); Visit or call 650-329-0891

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In the Heights
Joyce Goldschmid / Palo Alto Players
Alexa Ortega, front, with Brian Conway, Rudy Fuentes and Dimitri Woods, from left, posing for a promotional photograph for the Palo Alto Players production of "In the Heights," running September 13 through September 29, 2013, at the Lucie Stern Theatre.
Putting those 'Ah ha!' moments on stage in Palo Alto
Palo Alto Players Executive Director Peter Bliznick talks about the venerable troupe's 83rd season
September 13, 2013

"We sort of wanted to pick a season where the shows share a theme of turning points, those ah ha moments people have in life," said Peter Bliznick, in explaining why Palo Alto Players is beginning its 83rd season with "In the Heights."

"This one is about family and home," Bliznick explained.

Peter Bliznick
Joyce Goldschmid / Palo Alto Players
Peter M. Bliznick, executive director of Palo Alto Players.

"In the Heights," about immigrants from the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Puerto Rico — and some other New Yorkers — ran for three years on Broadway, winning Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Choreography and Best Orchestration.

Reviewers in New York weren't all in love with the book, but pretty much all of them loved the music and the dancing, hence that particular mix of Tonys. The show is a powerful mix of hip-hop, pop and Latin dances, and everybody pretty much agrees that it comes alive when the music starts.

The ah ha moment for "In the Heights" might be when everybody figures out, as Bliznick put it, that home is where the heart is.

The official theme for Palo Alto's oldest theater company's season is "Break Through to a World of Possibilities," but we like that ah ha moment thing more.

There's "God of Carnage," by Yasmina Reza, in November, about two sets of parents whose ah ha moment might be when they discover what shallow humans they have been (or, maybe, it is when one of them vomits). "The Heiress," a 1947 gem that has seen many productions and a movie, will open 2014; its ah ha moment might be when the title character gives a bad boyfriend the bum's rush.

My favorite play to stretch this ah ha thing is "Young Frankenstein," the hilarious Mel Brooks musical, that can be said to have many ah ha moments. "Ah ha! I have stabbed myself in the leg with a scalpel!" "Ah ha! I have created life!" But my favorite has to be from the monster's viewpoint: "Ah ha! Not long ago, I was a loose brain marked 'Abnormal' in a jar! Now I can sing and dance!"

Closing out the season will be "The Farnsworth Invention," in June 2014. It's ah ha moment might be when Philo Farnsworth invents television. It's a play that started out to be a movie, failed (so far), then became a play that didn't fare very well. It will be interesting to see if Palo Alto Players can breathe some life (and success) into it.

Back to "In the Heights," which opens on Saturday.

"We'd had a huge success with 'Miss Saigon,'" Bliznick said Wednesday during a phone interview. "So, doing another musical that focused on an ethnic group seemed like dynamite. The music is exceptional — it makes you want to get up and start dancing."

In the Heights
Joyce Goldschmid / Palo Alto Players
Horsing around between rehearsals for "In the Heights" for Palo Alto Players, backstage at the Lucie Stern Theatre, are, from left, Alexa Ortega (Nina), director Alex Perez, Brian Conway (Sonny), costumer Patricia Tyler, Rudy Fuentes (Usnavi), Dmitri Woods (Benny) and Associate Artistic Director Patrick Klein. The show opens tonight, September 13, 2013.


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