It's July 3 in the Dominican-American New York City neighborhood of Washington Heights, and the air is sticky with more than just humidity. Nina, the brainy hope of the 'hood, has returned home for the summer with dream-shattering news. Every business owner and employee on the block is stressed over staying afloat. The main issues with Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical, which swept the Tony Awards in 2008, are that its narrative is a little shaky and problems are a little too neatly tied up. But let's focus on the positives of the charming current production. Director Rigo Tejeda's cast has uniformly excellent voices, Daniel Lazareno's choreography is so explosive your eyes hardly know where to focus and Abel Alvarado's costumes, an entire color wheel manifested in body-squeezing leggings and polyester knit-blend dresses, are a feast. The band is terrific, too, although it needs to be toned down or the cast needs to be individually miked — we lost a lot of words. Still, during the first act's electrifying final dance scene, or "carnaval," led by Daniela (spitfire standout Vivian Lamolli), all you feel is heat, even on a chilly December evening. An exhilarating must-see that speeds by much quicker than we would have liked.
Fri., Dec. 7, 7 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 8, 7 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 9, 1 & 6 p.m.; Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Starts: Dec. 7. Continues through Dec. 22, 2012