By Stephanie Doheny
The house lights dim, the spotlights come on, and in front of you is a beautiful set. You can almost feel the warm sunlight bouncing off of the storefronts.
The band starts to play “In the Heights” and you are transported to the ever-vibrant Washington Heights.
From April 12 to April 15, Sacred Heart University’s Theatre Arts Program put on Lin-Manuel Miranda’s, “In the Heights.” Making its Broadway debut in 2008, the show has since won three Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and has gone on a National tour.
“In the Heights” tells the story of the Hispanic-American neighborhood of Washington Heights in New York City. It takes place over the span of three days, mainly following the lives of Usnavi, Abuela Claudia, Vanessa, Nina Rosario and Benny. These characters and their families are all intertwined, making for a musical story that really hits home.
The show opened with a huge number that introduces everyone in the show. The lighting design combined with the set design was absolutely amazing. It really felt like you were on the street corner with the rest of the cast.
“[The cast is] extremely talented, the crew that we have is phenomenal,” said Assistant Director of the production, sophomore Hannah Jones. “Everyone just works like a family and like a community to get this done.”
And as she said, their hard work really did pay off.
You could tell the audience was mesmerized by what was going on. The actors and actresses had such amazing voices. The dancers were phenomenal. You could almost feel their movements in your soul. Everyone’s performances were very moving.
“I thought it was fun and vibrant. It was a different kind of show,” said senior Hayley Lopreto. “I liked how it explored different cultures. I thought that all of the roles, the people who played them, were cast perfectly. They made the show even better.”
Another aspect of the show that made it a stand-out production were the exceptional costumes. They were so colorful and full of life. The clothes themselves totally embodied the story and the messages the actors were trying to send; which, evidently, was the goal for the Costume Designer, senior Nicole Jablonski.
“It’s very interesting because this was something that is very close to home for me. My best friend is Dominican and I grew up with her family, and I was basically living at their house, being immersed in the culture. Her parents actually lived in Washington Heights for a really long time, so I have a personal connection to this show. It makes me very happy where I can create my family through seeing this,” said Jablonski. “‘In the Heights’ being my last show is very interesting because it’s going to hit me all during the last performance when I’m watching and seeing all the colors and the story they’re telling.”
Members of the creative team decided that “In the Heights” would be a great opportunity to raise money for Puerto Rico hurricane relief, in response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria, and join Miranda in his support of Puerto Rico through United Nations Industrial Development Organization’s (UNIDOS) Disaster Relief and Recovery Program.
The Theatre Arts Program named the Puerto Rico Relief Fundraiser “Taking Love to New Heights,” and set their goal to $10,000.
“We were having a production meeting and the creative team, as a whole, thought it would be a missed opportunity if we didn’t do something to help Puerto Rico because there are still over one million people without power,” said Co-Producer of the production, sophomore Justin Weigel. “Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the show, has a big Puerto Rico fundraiser, a big relief effort, and we figured why not help? It’ll tie in perfectly with the show. We’re so close to meeting our goal and just so happy we get to help.”
After the closing performance, it was announced at the program’s potluck dinner celebration that after combining a portion of the ticket sales with the donations that were raised via social media and fundraisers on campus, the Theatre Arts Program significantly exceeded their goal of $10,000.
At the end of the day, this show has a simple message: always remember your home, where you come from and who your family is. In this show, family doesn’t just mean a person’s mom, dad, brothers and sisters, it’s a person’s community, and the people who supported them and helped to raise them. That message definitely came through during the finale. It was so moving and embodied what the show is all about.
With a standing ovation, the show came to an end and it will surely be an experience both the Theatre Arts Program, as well as the rest of the Sacred Heart community, will never forget.
Often times, I’ve heard it said amongst students that Sacred Heart is their home—that it is part of their family. For those of you who saw the show, I hope you can still hear that final note ringing in your ears, because I know it hasn’t left mine… “We’re Home.”