New York City’s Washington Heights neighborhood was the backdrop for the Blair Academy Players’ production of the Tony Award-winning musical In the Heights. The show centered around the hopes, dreams, traditions and music of the neighborhood’s close-knit residents and tells the universal story of a vibrant American community facing challenges and changes.
Conceived by Lin-Manuel Miranda, In the Heights won 2008 Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Score, Best Choreography and Best Orchestration. Its music and lyrics were written by Lin-Manuel Miranda and the book by Quiara Alegría Hudes. The rights to the musical are owned by Rodgers and Hammerstein (www.rnh.com). Lin-Manuel Miranda also wrote the book, music and lyrics for the current Broadway sensation, Hamilton.
“We try to alternate traditional and contemporary winter musical productions at Blair,” said English and theatre teacher Craig Evans, the show’s director. “We were particularly excited to be doing such a recent hit. Obviously, the attention garnered by the ground-breaking Hamilton makes In the Heights a very enticing prospect for audiences. Since Hamilton may run forever, it will be quite some time before high schools and community theatres will be able to produce it. In the Heights is a terrific show in its own right—after all, it won the Tony for Best Musical.”
The story centers on Usnavi (played by Ernesto Lippert ’18), who runs the local bodega in a Washington Heights neighborhood with the assistance of his cousin Sonny (portrayed by Emmila Hastings ’17). Usnavi has long had a crush on Vanessa (played by Siena Tipton ’18), who hopes to get out of the neighborhood and move downtown. Her co-workers are Daniela (portrayed by Audrey Sacks ’20) and Carla (played by Lily Petrucelli ’19), hairdressers who also hope to move their business out of the barrio. Running a cab company on the same block are the Rosarios, father Kevin (played by Matthew Bottone ’19), mother Camila (portrayed by Emily Lunger ’17), and daughter Nina (played by Alex Kirby ’20). Playing the Rosario’s employee Benny is Charlie Stafford ’17, who has his own crush on Nina. Looking out for every one is Abuela Claudia (played by Olivia McLaine ’20), while Graffiti Pete (portrayed by Chinonso Chima-Anyanka ’17) and the Piragua Guy (played by Ryan Gomez ’20) practice their arts and peddle their wares on the block. The student director was Emma Mohlmann ’18.
“The cast was excited since we announced the show, the set was extensive and impressive, and the music and choreography were complex and thrilling,” said Mr. Evans. “We were delighted to be one of the first area producers of this classic. I couldn’t be more enthusiastic about inviting audiences to share this great theatrical event with us.”