The Tony Award-winning 2008 musical “In the Heights” lives in Elisa Santora’s body.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, also the creator of the Tony Award-winning 2015 megahit “Hamilton,” based his debut musical on his old neighborhood, the vibrant Latino community known as Washington Heights in Upper Manhattan. His story follows intermingling characters over the course of three days, including Benny and Nina,

“’In the Heights’ brings to life the stories that typically don’t get told on the Broadway stage,” Santora said.

“It shares the stories of what it feels like for a culture pulled between two homes, two cultures and two languages. It gives an inside view into the contemporary immigrant experience through the personal experience of these families.”

Previews for the show are Thursday and Friday at Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College. It opens Saturday and runs through April 2. Santora will direct. The cast consists of local and nationally known actors, some of whom are from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Mexico.

Santora joined the Broadway show in 2009 as understudy for the roles of Abuela Claudia, Camila and Daniela, and went on to star as Abuela Claudia in the first national tour. Altogether, she spent three years immersed in the show.

It was an ideal vehicle for the actor and director, who not only grew up in the Bronx and Puerto Rico, but spent four decades being the only Latina in creative rooms in the entertainment industry.

She felt pigeonholed in the few Latina roles Broadway shows offered, and finally felt a sense of arrival on the Broadway stage in Miranda’s show.

“I was telling a story that was genuine and so close to my heart that reflected my parents and grandparents and my first-generation New York experience,” said Santora, last seen in the Springs in the FAC productions of "Guadalupe in the Guest Room" in 2021 and “Anna in the Tropics” in 2019, both of which earned her Henry Awards from the Colorado Theatre Guild. “I can’t tell you how gratifying that was.”

She tells the story of her first day in the theater after being cast, when she ran into Miranda and he said, “Welcome home.”

While Miranda’s seminal hip-hop music in “Hamilton” is “its own animal,” Santora says, there is one similarity: A narrator moves the story forward through rap and hip-hop, which was groundbreaking at the time. And it wasn’t done to alienate audiences or show off the genre, but to recount the story in a more emotive way.

“Sometimes people who aren’t fans or familiar with hip-hop will feel apprehensive about listening to it or feeling like they can’t acclimate to it, but it’s very accessible.”

But “In the Heights” is also filled with a mix of Latino styles, including Latin pop and boleros, or ballads.

“Lin was great about using all forms of music from the older generation, from bolero to salsa to hip-hop, all in one show,” Santora said, “which is the heart of our music, not only from the island, but that got generated and cultivated on the cement city sidewalks of New York.”

Contact the writer: 636-0270

Contact the writer: 636-0270

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