Lights Up ‘In The Heights’

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Lights Up ‘In The Heights’

Cast members Alex Hibbard-Brown and Patrick Dunleavy run through their lines in an after-school rehearsal.

Cast members Alex Hibbard-Brown and Patrick Dunleavy run through their lines in an after-school rehearsal.

Cast members Alex Hibbard-Brown and Patrick Dunleavy run through their lines in an after-school rehearsal.

Cast members Alex Hibbard-Brown and Patrick Dunleavy run through their lines in an after-school rehearsal.

Rachel Benner, Staff Writer

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From Nov. 3-5, the Libertyville High School Theatre Department will be presenting its annual fall musical starring LHS students; this year’s production is “In The Heights”.

“In The Heights” is a musical written by the creator of “Hamilton”, Lin-Manuel Miranda. It is centered in present-day Washington Heights, or “El Barrio,” a community located in Manhattan, New York. The neighborhood is comprised of diverse culture, but highly concentrated with people from Latin America.

The story follows three residents of Washington Heights and their journey to understand where they belong. Usnavi, the main character, seeks to return to his birthplace in the Dominican Republic to further understand his family. He is in love with Vanessa, who aspires to leave the neighborhood and intends to pursue that ambition.

Her best friend is Nina Rosario, who has left Washington Heights to go to Stanford University. People admire her, but she becomes overwhelmed with the demands outside of El Barrio. Along with the other neighbors and families, these three individuals have correlating stories that form the main plot of the musical.

“It’s based on everybody. It’s a big family show and that’s sometimes hard, but it’s also really good too.” said junior Alex-Hibbard-Brown, who plays Vanessa, on the character interaction.

A prominent theme throughout the story is finding your home. Junior Jack Miller, who performs as Benny, said his favorite song in the show is “When You’re Home.”

“It’s an ode to where you come from and that’s really important. It’s part of who you are and I think that’s a beautiful message,” Miller stated.

The cast is working on depicting the theme so that it becomes more relatable.

“Whether you are a Latino living in New York or a high school student at Libertyville, you seek to understand who you are in this world and this show is an echoing of that on many levels,” expressed the director of the theatre, Mr. Christopher Thomas.

The musical features a wide variety of dances and music to reflect each culture that is presented in the community. Dancing forms include hip-hop, breakdance, contemporary and salsa. The different styles compliment the various music genres featured, such as rap, soul, merengue and Latin, in addition to common theater ballads.

“This show is really transporting you into the streets of New York and there is all different kinds of movement,” said Miller. “The movements are very authentic and street and human, which makes it really fun.”

The production is set in a predominantly Latino community, sparking dispute when it is  performed with a cast that contains a lack of diversity, as is the case in Libertyville.

“Sometimes the subject matter in a show demands race-specific casting or gender-specific casting, and I get that. But when you’re in high school, I think those rules should be suspended.” stated Miranda in an interview by THNKR, a YouTube channel from Radical Media.

The theatre department agrees with this statement, expressing how the focus should be about the message of “In The Heights”.

“The benefits of doing this show and the teaching moments that the show offers… outweighs any type of controversy that could possibly come off of doing a story [that is] mainly Latino,” Mr. Thomas stated.

The cast of “In The Heights” is going to great lengths to perform the story as authentically as possible. They are learning about Latino culture so they can embody their character accurately.

Alongside the production’s dramaturge, sophomore Olivia Gauvin, who researches a show before it is performed, guest speakers have presented information on the Latin American culture to the cast.

“I think they got it,” Gauvin commented. “One thing I was really happy about was that they were listening and that’s so important.”

Along with cultural lessons, the cast has a dialect coach who teaches correct pronunciation of certain words with a true accent in order for the actors to better mirror their role.

Tickets for “In The Heights” can be purchased the week before the show outside the cafeteria or at the door for $5 per adult and $4 for students. They can also be bought on the LHS website on the ticket page under the theatre department’s tab for $5.50 for adults and $4.50 for students. Activity passes are not accepted for this event.

Seniors Zach Pearson and Mia Akers practice their roles as Usnavi and Abuela.

Seniors Zach Pearson and Mia Akers practice their roles as Usnavi and Abuela.

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