Photo by Gretchen Kelley
Tears were dampening the face of actress Michelle Lauto during the opening-night bows Tuesday night of “In the Heights,” as produced by the Porchlight Music Theatre in Chicago and featuring a truly wonderful performance from Lauto as restless Vanessa.
Porchlight Music Theatre’s production of “In the Heights” is such an overwhelming experience on every level — in the brilliance and endearing warmth of its cast, the passion behind its storytelling, the piercing truth and mastery of its direction, the thrill of its explosive dancing, the magic of its mix of voices, the detail of its design and the instant connection it forges with its audience — that it is difficult to know where to begin when heaping praise on it all.
Michelle Lauto already has a non-Equity Jeff Award nomination under her belt but feels like a real discovery as Vanessa, Usnavi’s love interest yearning to break free from her home.
Michelle Lauto makes equally fine work of Vanessa, who longs to escape Washington Heights to find new opportunity and break away from her alcoholic mother. Lauto has a powerful voice and particularly impresses on Vanessa’s heart-wrenching solo “It Won’t Be Long Now.”
Michelle Lauto is splendid as the feisty and restless Vanessa