St. Joseph High School stages Lin-Manuel Miranda’s ‘In the Heights’
St. Joseph High School tackles a “new classic” — “In the Heights.”
Before “Hamilton” swept the musical theater world by storm there was “In the Heights.” Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote the music and lyrics, starring in both. “In the Heights” garnered numerous top industry honors including Best Musical, Choreography, Original Score and Orchestrations at the 2008 Tony Awards.
Anthony Fellowes, 20, returns to direct this year’s production and says he chose “In the Heights” for its message and the current popularity of “Hamilton.” The Harrison school’s show also suits his smaller cast, comprised of 19 St. Joe’s students and seven middle-school students from area schools. The show is set April 4-7, with all performances at the Casino Theater in Vandergrift.
“In the Heights” not only showcases major changes in these character’s lives that resonate with each audience member, but it advocates for change in human empathy,” Fellows says. “This is a community from all backgrounds and they come together in desperate times to love and lift each other up. I think that is the most important thing to be teaching our kids in today’s world.”
Making his musical theater debut is senior Daniel Fabregas in the lead role of Usnavi De La Vega, owner of a local bodega (corner store). Senior Julia Singleton wraps up her St. Joe’s musical journey as Nina Rosario, a not-so-successful college student returning home.
“It’s non-stop — the energy of the show,” Singleton says. “And the show has a deep message of family and community coming together that I think everyone can relate to. It’s also challenging for the cast because it does require so much energy and hip-hop and rapping isn’t something most people can just naturally do.”
Additional leads for the production are Brody Porter as Benny, Alex Babilon as Vanessa, Julia Ammon as Camila Rosario, Sam Shadle as Kevin Rosario, Olivia Jesse as Daniela, Hannah Laskowski as Carla, Isabella Maritz as Abuela Claudia, Anabel Stickney as Sonny, Olivia DiNatale as Graffiti Pete and Mary-Kate Schratz as Piragua Guy.
Contemporary and energetic, the musical is set in Washington Heights, a diverse upper Manhattan neighborhood of immigrants from Latin America and the Caribbean.
“The dance numbers are a ton of fun and the choreography was one of the most challenging parts of this show,” Fellowes says.
For Fabregas, learning the musical theater ropes is a departure from his familiar sports world.
“I tried out for the fall cabaret, spent two months rehearsing with this group of people and I really found myself enjoying it,” Fabregas says. “This is different from my traditional path of sports but I’ve made so many friends and close connections that I am thankful for. Theater is 100 percent harder (than sports) it’s not even close. The amount of time you have to spend, because it’s not natural to me like sports is, but this — first year doing a musical — it doesn’t even compare.”
Joyce Hanz is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.