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Porchlight’s “In the Heights” names its authentic cast

Chicago's Porchlight Music Theatre will present "In the Heights," the first hit Broadway musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda (of "Hamilton" fame). (Photo: Courtesy of Porchlight)

Before he wrote “Hamilton,” Lin-Manuel Miranda broke ground with his Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, “In the Heights,” which featured a book by Quiara Alegria Hudes. And now, even before the Chicago production of “Hamilton” begins performances here on Sept. 27, Porchlight Music Theatre will open its production of that first Miranda hit with an unusually “authentic” cast.

“In the Heights,” which will run Sept. 9-Oct. 16 at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont, will be directed by multiple award-winner Brenda Didier, and co-choreographed by Didier and Chris Carter, with music direction by Diana Lawrence. Serving as assistant director will be Adrian Abel Azevedo. The show tells the story of a tight-knit community of Latino immigrant families in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood – a community on the brink of change – and features a score that is an innovative mix of hip-hop, Latin beats and Broadway.

In a prepared statement, Michael Weber, Porchlight’s artistic director, noted: “After an exhaustive audition process, during which we saw hundreds of the Chicago-area’s diverse music theater talent – both established and new – and even reached out to our city’s vast hip-hop dance community, we are excited to introduce the cast of Chicago’s newest production of Lin Manuel Miranda’s revelatory musical. We have made every effort to present a company that reflects the true spirit of this story of community and family as we build an immersive, one-of-a-kind experience that will place our audiences right in the middle of all the excitement, and the music found in the barrio of Washington Heights. Featuring a cast of 19 actors – the largest ensemble in many years here at Porchlight – all but one of our actors is making their Porchlight mainstage debut with this production.”

The cast will include: Jack DeCesare as Usnavi De La Vega (the character originally played by Miranda on Broadway); Missy Aguilar as Daniela; Stephen Allen as Benny; Frankie Leo Bennett as Sonny, Leah Davis as Carla; Jordan DeBose as Kevin Rosario; Stan DeCwikel, Jr. as “El Piraguero;” Lucia Godinez as Nina; Kristopher Knighton as “Graffiti Pete;” Michelle Lauto as Vanessa; Isabel Quintero as Abuela Claudia and Keely Vasquez as Camila Rosario, with Anthony Apodaca, Nicole Lambert, Cisco Lopez, Yando Lopez, Elena Romanowski, Travis Austin Wright and Demi Zaino in the ensemble.

The design team will include: Gregory Pinsoneault (sets); Kate Setzer Kamphausen (costumes); Denise Karczewski (lighting); Robert Hornbostel (sound) and Mealah Heidenreich (props).

Tickets are $38 for previews and $43 – $51 for the regular run. Call (773) 327-5252 or visit For subscriptions call (773) 777-9884 or visit the website.