Guests at the California Theatre of the Performing Arts were transported back in time to a small Latin community in Washington Heights, N.Y., where characters came alive and lit up the stage on Feb. 15.

Chris Marcos was one of those amazing characters, as the unforgettable Usnavi, in the recent production of “In the Heights.” 

Marcos is no stranger to theater. His first production was High School Musical 2 in 2009, where he played the role of Ryan. Since then, he has been a part of many regional productions and projects, including the West Coast Premiere of “In the Heights,” and performed as a back-up dancer for Macy Gray and Bobby Brown and performing with the cast of the Greatest Showman at the 90th annual Academy Awards on ABC.

With a background in dance, Marcos said he performs while “never forgetting to keep up my training as a dancer.” Judging by Saturday night’s performance, his dancing (and vocal) skills are on pointe.

The show was more than just dancing.

“This show touches on so many important subjects, but the ones that stick out to me the most are the importance of family, community and most of all, the importance of dreaming,” said Marcos. “In today’s society, we tend to forget that the people we decide to surround ourselves with play a key role in how we live our lives, how we love and how we carry ourselves in this world. This story of a community that is disappearing and how they cope, how they dream and how they support and love each other is such an amazing story to tell.”

The production tells the struggle of immigrants and cleverly weaves their individual stories into a poignant story that had the audience cheering for more.

“It’s about the struggle to come to America and work your tail off just to get by,” said Marcos. “It’s about those generations who hit the pavement every day to make a better life for their children and their children and so on. Corporate greed, gentrification and high taxes make it difficult to live here, but we can’t forget that this country was built on the backs of immigrants. My grandparents were immigrants and ‘In the Heights’ is a reminder that they and all people of color and race are not invisible.”

Between scenes from the Bodega, local coffee and market hub, beauty parlor, to a limousine service and humble home of “Abuela,” the Latin-infused dancing, hip-hop and high-energy show was an absolute joy to see.

Following the musical, Marcos told the audience members to remain seated. The cheering audience became still, to witness the most magical moment of the night.

Marcos called his girlfriend of eight years on to the stage and proposed to her. It was magic. What’s better than a good show that really makes you feel so many emotions a live marriage proposal.

Nico Abiera was in the audience for Saturday night’s performance.

“I thought the show was amazing,” said Abiera. “My girlfriend and I drove six hours to see my best friend, Chris Marcos, perform in his dream role and to propose to his girlfriend. It was quite a spectacle that definitely was an experience we’ll never forget.”

Calimesa resident Adolph Montez agreed. “I enjoyed the entire thing, especially the ending.”

The California Theatre of the Performing Arts is in the historic Downtown area of San Bernardino, 562 W Fourth St., in San Bernardino.

The next big production at the California Theatre is “The Jungle Book,” playing Friday, March 6, and Saturday, March 7.

For show times and ticket information, call (909) 885-5152.

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