In the heights

This Friday’s opening night of In the Heights, Montclair High’s School of Visual and Performing Arts (SVPA) spring production, marks exciting  new musical territory for some of Montclair High’s finest performers.

According to one cast member, about half of the numbers in this Tony-Award winning musical are Rap or Hip Hop, which is a major departure from the more traditional scores of their previous shows. And if one new genre wasn’t enough for these ambitious performers, Salsa dominates much of In the Heights’ score, another mostly uncharted musical style for the SVPA cast.

Written by Lin-Emanuel Miranda and based on the book by Quiara Algería Hudes, In the Heights follows a group of primarily Dominican-American Washington Heights residents who stick together as they navigate hardship, budding romance, sudden wealth, and death. With a diverse set of characters ranging from Abuela Claudia (Vivian Belosky), an elderly Cuban matriarch in the community to Nina (Caroline Friedman), a girl who set out to study at Stanford with a scholarship, cast member Elise Reichard says, “There is a character in this show for everyone.”

Determined to present an accurate portrayal of the Hispanic culture of In the Heights, cast members were brought to Washington Heights in New York City on a field trip by their director, Brenda Pepper. When asked about the cultural differences between the cast and the characters they portray, senior Caroline Friedman, who plays Nina, said, “Even though we’re not Hispanic, we’re celebrating Hispanic culture. Outside of high school I would never be cast for my part, but here I am offered a really great learning experience.”

Aside from gaining a better understanding of the culture with their trip, SVPA brought in fellow MHS students Savannah Gallagher and internationally ranked ballroom dancer Gabriela Castillo to aid them in perfecting their Salsa dancing. Castillo commented that, “the actors truly embody the fun and sassy essence of the dancing, and with that they bring a whole new feel to a ‘traditional musical.’. This will definitely be a show to remember!”

With this widely collaborative effort, cast members are confident that their efforts to share a story of community and family will be well received by their audience.

Montclair High School’s SVPA Presents In The Heights
Teens and older.
What: Montclair High School of Visual and Performing Arts performs the Tony-Award winning musical In The Heights.
When:  Friday, May 2 through Sunday, May 4, and next weekend Friday, May 9 through Sunday, May 11. The Friday and Saturday shows are at 8 pm and the Sunday shows are at 3 pm.
Cost: $15 for adults and $10 for students.The box office will open one hour before each show to sell tickets, but tickets can also be purchased online here.


(Photos: Annie Blackman)