Marcus Santana Returns to 'The Heights' At Westport Playhouse

Marcos Santana has experienced the heights, and he’s living them again, directing the Westport Country Playhouse production of the Lin-Manuel Miranda musical In the Heights. The season opener runs through May 11.

Part of the original workshop as well as the Broadway run, Santana has seen first-hand how the show continues to radiate feel-good affection from audiences 11 years after it won the Tony Award for best musical, and Miranda his first as composer.

In fact, you can see bits of the staging from In the Heights that Miranda would later use to make Hamilton a sensation. But In the Heights — which began when Miranda was a sophomore at Wesleyan University in Middletown in 1999 — made its own mark in its day, introducing rap and hip-hop to a Broadway audience and showing a loving Hispanic community on stage.

“It felt so authentic yet unique,” says Santana, a native of Puerto Rico. “Lin blends his love of musical theater with traditional music of the islands. He also did a great job lyrically in connecting our heritage and culture with musical theater. It’s my favorite cast album and I never get tired of it.”

The lead actor playing Usnavi for this production — Rodolfo Soto, who is of Dominican heritage — was chosen at an open audition, giving the Westport production the underdog spirit of the original.

Santana points out that the neighborhood — the diverse community of New York’s Washington Heights — is really the lead character of the show. “It tells an honest, simple story that anyone who comes from a specific neighborhood can identify with, whether they come from a black, Asian, Jewish or Anglo-Saxon neighborhood. It’s about home, it’s about community, and it’s about celebrating your heritage.”