LoHud: Reaching New ‘Heights’

Arielle Jacobs has a history with “In the Heights,” Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony-winning salsa and hip-hop musical that comes to Westchester Broadway Theatre in Elmsford next month.

Jacobs played Nina — the girl whose success is a beacon in her Washington Heights neighborhood — in the first national tour and was the last actress to play Nina on Broadway, when the show closed two years ago this week.

Andy Blankenbuehler, who won a 2008 Tony Award for his “In the Heights” choreography, has a history with Westchester Broadway Theatre.

It’s where he earned the Equity card that made him a professional actor, in a production of “A Chorus Line” directed by Rob Marshall, an Oscar-nominee for directing “Chicago,” assisted by his sister, Kathleen Marshall, who went on to win three Tonys for choreography (“Anything Goes,” “Wonderful Town,” “The Pajama Game”).

Their histories will combine in the near future at the dinner theater in Elmsford, where “In the Heights” will run Feb. 7 to March 17, a production of John Fanelli’s newly minted Standing Ovation Studios.

Jacobs will reprise her role as Nina and Blankenbuehler will consult with choreographer Morgan Marcell, who will transpose Blakenbuehler’s original dance moves onto the challenging confines of the WBT stage, where the audience occupies seats on three sides of the stage.

This is the second February that Fanelli — and Ardsley native who now lives in the other heights, Yorktown Heights — has taken over the dinner-theater stage. Last year, it was “Big River,” the Roger Miller musical setting for “Huckleberry Finn.”

This year, the banjo is replaced by a salsa beat, for “In the Heights,” a heart-warming musical that is in many ways a Latin cousin to the show that is now on stage in Elmsford: “Fiddler on the Roof.” Both shows are about dreams and community and heritage. While “Fiddler” is set in 1905 Russia, “In the Heights” is set in the shadow of the George Washington Bridge. The milkman Tevye gives way to Usnavi, whose bodega is the neighborhood’s meeting place.

Jacobs, a bright shining penny of an actress, was on the road with the show for months before the tour rolled into Los Angeles, and Miranda — who created the role of Usnavi — joined the production.

“He is a force of nature, but being on stage with him wasn’t as intimidating as being off-stage with him,” she says with a laugh. “Being myself around him made me nervous. I knew that when I do the show, it’s reacting to him in character, using the words he gave me. Off-stage, I got a little nervous, but he’s so much fun to be around.”

Read more via LoHud: Reaching New ‘Heights’

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