This show is universal. I think everyone can connect to some part of this show. It's very moving —Xandra Wille
OREM — With a cast that includes Equity actor and local favorite Jayne Luke, Hale Center Theater Orem is bringing a Broadway hit show to Utah County for its semi-professional premiere.
"In the Heights," a story set in the predominantly Dominican neighborhood of New York's Washington Heights, was named Best Musical in 2007 by New York magazine and Best of 2007 by the New York Times.
The show was the winner of Tony Awards in 2008 for Best Musical, Best Score, Best Choreography and Best Orchestrations.
With a high-energy musical score written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the show features Latin and hip-hop music, including full ensemble singing and dancing numbers and a romantic duet.
Cast members Ben and Xandra Wille, who play Usnavi de la Vega and Nina Rosario, say the show takes the audience on a roller coaster emotional ride.
"It is so fun, a party almost the entire time. It is different from what you normally think of in a musical but I think that is what makes it so fun for everyone," Xandra Wille said
The show is about figuring out life's journey and how people can help and love those closes, she explained.
"Not only is it the best thing in this show, it's the best part of life," she said.
Xandra Wille used to live in Inwood, a Manhattan city just above Washington Heights.
"I was new to the city and wanted to be a part of the community. 'In the Heights' had the cheapest rush tickets on Broadway at the time, so I want to see it as often as I could and fell in love with it.
"I must have seen it at least 10 times. I fell in love with the music," she said. "I wanted to play Nina the minute I heard (the song) 'Breathe.'"
Both actors say the show is for families, couples, everyone who enjoys beauty.
"I honestly believe every generation can learn something (from it) and enjoy it. It is different because it's a modern show taking place today, talking about things that are happening now," Ben Wille said.
"This show is universal. I think everyone can connect to some part of this show. It's very moving," Xandra Wille said.
The cast includes Luke and Marcie Jacobsen as Abuela Claudia, Shae Robins and Rebecca Burroughs as Vanessa, Elijah Thomas as Sonny and Shaunna Thompson and Michelle Sundwall as Camila Rosario.
Christopher Clark is directing the show with musical direction by Justin Bills and choreography by Jennifer Hill-Barlow.
If you go...
What: "In the Heights"
Where: Hale Center Theater Orem, 225 W. 400 North
When: 7:30 p.m., 3 p.m. Saturday matinee, runs Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Oct. 3-Nov. 23
How Much: $16-$20, $4 less for children
Tickets: haletheater.org or 801-226-8600
Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with more than 35 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.