IN THE HEIGHTS: You MUST SEE this monumental performance!

posted by American Radio Presenter Toby Knapp // @tkradio -

.: Olney Theater Center Photo // Used with permission :. 

In a city of monuments... the most monumental musical experience happening right now in Washington, DC made its debut tonight... just off Georgia Avenue, in Olney, Maryland.

IN THE HEIGHTS, the inspired Broadway musical from the mind of LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA, had it's debut performance tonight at the OLNEY THEATER CENTER in DC's Maryland suburbs. A collaboration between Bethesda's Round House Theatre and Olney Theatre Center, the record-breaking musical which changed Broadway and forced a cultural conversation about immigration - and at the same time - setting the stage for the musical phenomenon known as HAMILTON: An American Musical... has already been extended due to overwhelming demand multiple times... with an additional week of performances being announced before the curtain went up for tonight's debut DC-area performance. 

The story is already the stuff of Broadway legend, so we won't bore you while rehashing it... and we won't bother you with the uncanny coincidence that this play, which literally preceded another culture-changing Miranda musical - Hamilton - precedes a coming 2018 run at a theater downtown named after, well, President John F. Kennedy. 

No, the real story here is that this story, in this town, as told by this company and cast, at this time... is absolutely the most potent artistic and cultural presentation happening anywhere in the Nation's Capital region at this moment and you absolutely need to find a way to experience it. 

This Olney cast... is... to paraphrase Apple co-founder Steve Jobs... "insanely great..."

Two-time TONY nominee ROBIN DE JESUS is absolutely radiant as USNAVI. A member of the show's original Broadway cast, you can sense his passion for the role which he owns with a mastery which rivals that of Miranda... so much so that he manages to, at one point, bring the entire theater to tears at one of the show's most poignant moments. Having him in the region... at this venue... at this time when the political discourse is as charged as it is... is just about perfect. 

But wait... there's more. 

LINEDY GENAO, another Broadway force on the rise, was the understudy for GLORIA ESTEFAN in ON YOUR FEET... is absolutely EPIC opposite DE JESUS playing his love interest Vanessa. Her voice... her embrace of the story and character and even her innocence... resonate, creating an instant empathetic bond with the audience while MILI DIAZ, who plays NINA, the one-time neighborhood prodigal, to me, delivered perhaps the most endearing performance of the show... vocally, listening to her, I heard... and saw... what I felt to be a performance on the level Philippa Soo's performance of ELIZABETH SCHULYER in Hamilton on Broadway. Yup. I went there. She is THAT good. 

Also, Michael J. Mainwaring, who plays SONNY, delivers a performance which may have casting agents checking into his availability to step into a role made famous by someone like, say, DAVEED DIGGS and MARQUISE WHITE manages to channel an inner CHRISTOPHER JACKSON as BENNY while taking the character to a uniquely new level. 

ASIDE: Can I remind you again that this all went down in OLNEY, MARYLAND, in DC's Montgomery County suburbs?

This entire cast is so good... with so many Broadway-seasoned actors on stage... it's highly likely that Hollywood casting agents... and Broadway theatrical agents... will likely be spotted in Olney working to cast the IN THE HEIGHTS movie currently starting production... as well as for that certain "other" Miranda musical still shattering records at the RICHARD RODGERS THEATER in New York. 

While the Kennedy Center is - and does what it does - and while the ARENA STAGE is basking in the post-DEAR EVAN HANSEN move-to-Broadway-glow as the highly-touted MEAN GIRLS prepares for its late-October debut... the single most important cultural artistic moment in the DC area is happening RIGHT NOW at the Olney Theatre Center... a place which, has been, for 80 years, influencing culture while entertaining the masses in the DC region as somewhat of a 'hidden' gem. 

Those 'hidden' days in the shadow of other area theaters are officially over... given the overwhelming demand for tickets to see this musical masterpiece. Tickets for an extended run go on sale later today, the Sunday after the debut performance... and are likely to go as quickly as those for the previous performances have gone. 

Click here and pray, with patience and faith, that you might get some. 

The musical which set the stage for HAMILTON, IN THE HEIGHTS, is running now and might just be extended again at the Olney Theater Center. It's a collaboration between the Olney Theater Center and the ROUNDHOUSE THEATER.  Click here for more. 

Caught a quick shot of Kyla last night at @olneytheatre after #intheheights... #music #broadway

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Toby Knapp

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