|Photo by Joan Marcus|
As the cast walked out onto the United Palace stage — adorned with a backdrop reminiscent of Anna Louizos' Tony-nominated set design, a band led by Tony-winning orchestrator Alex Lacamoire and two rows of seats for the Broadway cast of In the Heights — the crowd immediately rose to their feet.
"We actually had to hold ourselves back because [we were] told, 'Listen, you can't stand' because the lighting guy was right behind us," said In the Heights alum Courtney Reed, who sat with fellow Heights veterans in the front of House Left — a section that jumped for joy following each number and pulsed with enthusiasm throughout the evening. "But it was so difficult for us to just sit. Every number we would just be up on our feet freaking out — a standing ovation after every number."
An ovation after every number is correct. Immediately following the opening number, and title track from In the Heights, the crowd burst with excitement, and the cast knew they were in for an experience unlike any other.
"Tonight was pretty unbelievable," said Karen Olivo, who originated the role of Vanessa and would go on to win a Tony Award for her work in West Side Story. "We prepared for it — we thought — and then we got out there, and the crowd was just so full of love and so into it, it really did knock us off our feet!"
During her big numbers, including a full-voiced and heartfelt "It Won't Be Long Now," Olivo admitted that she was "actually thinking 'Respira' — I was thinking 'Breathe' [the song performed by the character of Nina] — because it was really overwhelming…and I even messed up because I got so emotional and then I [thought], 'Where am I?'" Her "mess up," as she referred to, was quite charming. Olivo — decked to the nines in a pink sequin dress with a tutu at the bottom — was obviously so lost in the moment during "It Won't Be Long Now" that she asked the audience to sing along. Her song, as the others, ended in rapturous applause and yet another "Standing O."
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