SILER CITY, N.C. — Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first Tony Award-winning musical, “In the Heights,” will fill the Jordan-Matthews High School stage with vibrant Latin music and a large student cast for three performances later this month.
Performances at the Jordan-Matthews Auditorium are Thursday, Nov. 16, at 7 p.m.; Friday, Nov. 17, at 7 p.m.; and Saturday, Nov. 18, at 4 p.m.
Tickets are $5 each and now available online at JMArtsTickets.com. Remaining tickets will be sold at the door and child care will be provided by student clubs with a suggested donation of $5 per child.
“In the Heights” won 2008 Tony Awards for Best Musical and Best Original Score, as well as a Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album and Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Music. Miranda, a Pulitzer Prize winner for his most recent musical, “Hamilton,” wrote the music and lyrics for “In the Heights,” collaborating with book writer Quiara Alegría Hudes.
It follows residents of the Washington Heights neighborhood during three hot days in New York City. Often funny, at times heartbreaking, immigrant neighbors push to get ahead in life and grapple with what is home.
“'In the Heights' is about family, home and dreams for a better life,” said Rose Pate, who is producing the musical. "It's the story, not just of America now, but America since its beginning. With situations like struggling to send children to college, trying to move out of poverty and falling in love for the first time, everyone can identify with something in this show.”
Because of its themes, the musical is appropriate for middle school and up. Pate describes it as “PG-13” — much like the production of “Grease” performed at Jordan-Matthews a couple of years ago, which also included some drinking, brief discussions about sex and mild profanity.
Matt Fry, the choral music teacher and musical director for “In the Heights,” says the contemporary musical presents an artistic challenge for young actors. “Just as an example, we made the decision to use recorded music instead of live instruments this year,” Fry said. “It was really for a couple of reasons. First, because of the complexity of the orchestration, but also because the kids can now practice on their own with the actual music they will use in the show. This gives us more time to focus on the rich vocal parts, which are also demanding.
“Based on what we’ve seen so far, the students are going to give an amazing performance."
Director Jessica Nunn agrees. She said that students began rehearsals knowing almost nothing about the show, but have united to put an inspiring story on stage for the entire community. “They have gone on an amazing journey together,” she said. "Each year I'm so proud when I see young actors reach the point where they truly inhabit the characters, and I especially appreciate the leadership shown by Orlando Balderas as the main character, Usnavi."
To make it easier for families to attend the production, child care will be provided again this year for families with small children. Pate said producers want every member of the family to have a great evening, so students from the school’s HOSA and LEO clubs — with adult supervision — will provide babysitting during the show. Clubs are requesting a donation of $5 per child, the same price as a show ticket. Care will be provided in the media center, near the auditorium, so parents can check on their children during intermission.
Jordan-Matthews's creative team has wanted to produce “In the Heights” for several years. But getting students ready to stage such a challenging musical took some time — not just for actors, but set designers as well. Rahkie Mateen-Mason's art students in the stage design class and carpentry students built the neighborhood of Washington Heights in what Pate describes as a “tremendous team effort constructing the most ambitious set we've ever had.”
With everyone ready, the time was right. “Lin-Manuel Miranda is so well-known after ‘Hamilton' that it seemed like the perfect year,” Pate said. “We know that everyone who comes will end up loving this music just as our students do. They can't stop singing it whenever they are together.”
More information about the production and other events scheduled for this season are available online at jmarts.org.
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