The musical styles that flow together to form the In the Heights score include salsa, merengue, bachata, mambo, Reggaeton and old-school musical theater songs. And that’s the sonic mountain that musical director Manny Schvartzman is climbing with the cast.
“I’ve literally never been so challenged in my life, and I’ve done 105 different shows,” he says. “The music is beyond specific, and I don’t want it to be anything less than perfect. ... This is so different from a typical musical theater show.”
Of the 20 people in the cast, Marcus Paul James, Doreen Montalvo, Elise Santora, Alicia Taylor Tomasko, José-Luis Lopez, Rosie Fiedelman and Javier Muñoz have done In the Heights on Broadway; Oscar Cheda, Rebecca Kritzer and Santora have toured in the show; and Duckart, Gainza, Sarah Amengual, Rayner G. Garranchan, Christie Prades, Denise Celina Sanchez, Renata Eastlick, Dexter Carr, Jimmy A. Arguello, Ivore Rousell and Erika Navarro are first-timers.
“When we played Orlando and then closed the tour in Miami, the connection with our people was so right,” says Santora, who played Abuela Claudia on tour and is beauty shop owner Daniela at Actors’. “We can relate to these characters. We see people who look like us, with brown eyes and curly dark hair.”
Says Gainza, “We hope that a lot of people who don’t usually come to the theater will come to this. It speaks to the Latino community in a way that most shows don’t.”
Duckart, who is up for a best supporting actor Carbonell Award for last season’s Next to Normal at Actors’, is happy to be working again in his hometown. His extended family, originally from Argentina, includes people who don’t speak much English, and he’s thrilled to be in a show he’s certain they’ll enjoy — and that is so significant to a company with a rich, award-winning history.
“This is the golden ticket of the 25th anniversary season,” he says.