By Alexa Gambero | Editor-in-Chief

Nina and Benny will be played by Amanda Ramos and Dino Tenorino, pictured above. There will be five different showtimes, with opening night set for April 27. (Courtesy of Matthew Cohen)

Nina and Benny will be played by Amanda Ramos and Dino Tenorino, pictured above. There will be five different showtimes, with opening night set for April 27. (Courtesy of Matthew Cohen)

The Tony, Grammy, and Drama Desk Award-winning musical “In the Heights” will make its Saint Mary’s debut on Thursday, April 27 in LeFevre Theatre. Written by Broadway legend Lin-Manuel Miranda, the musical takes places in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan and tells the story of a group of first and second generation Latinx immigrants who all have different dreams for themselves. Over the course of the show, the characters work to make a living, a home, and an identity for themselves.

The Saint Mary’s production of “In the Heights” will feature a cast of talented students with differing levels of experience in theater production. For some performers, “In the Heights” is the first college show they have participated in, while others are seasoned stage veterans.

Senior Rachel Hartley, who was last seen on the LeFevre stage when she was a first-year student, was cast as a member of the ensemble. Hartley’s decision to audition for the show, which will be her first musical at Saint Mary’s, seemed like the right thing to do, even though she is not a theater major.

One aspect of the Saint Mary’s production of “In the Heights” that is unique is the range of academic and performance disciplines that the cast members come from. This is a new concept for guest director Nick Gabriel, who is a Resident Artist and associate faculty member at the prestigious American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco.

Typically, Gabriel has worked with students and actors who have already made the decision to pursue theater professionally. Working with students who have various aspirations has enriched Gabriel’s directorial perspective.

Commenting on the energy, experience, and talent of the Saint Mary’s cast, Gabriel noted, “I have been really excited by this cast. They have been generous with each other and encouraged by their capabilities, even those who haven’t decided to become professionals.”

Gabriel was approached by Rebecca Engle about directing a production at Saint Mary’s after teaching a monologue interpretation course on campus. “In the Heights” was the first musical on a list of possible productions for this spring, and it was so compelling that Gabriel and Engle were able to agree that it would be the perfect show to put on for the Saint Mary’s community.

“I appreciate that one of the central themes of the show is community and community coming together despite its different members having different aspirations and different goals for themselves,” Gabriel said. “I also think that Lin-Manuel [Miranda] sort of represents the future of the best of the American theater, and I think that it’s important that we bring fresh, new perspectives to college campuses, particularly in relation to theater performance.”

This musical stood out from other shows in the genre because of its incorporation of rap lyrics and hip-hop, salsa, and jazz influences, which was unprecedented in 2008 when “In the Heights” made its Broadway debut.

With opening night approaching, Hartley said, “I hope that everyone [realizes] the heart and passion of the show, that we as a cast and crew have been working so hard on this, and that Saint Mary’s understands the importance of a show like this for our campus.”

“In the Heights” will premiere on Thursday, April 27 at 8:00 p.m. Other showtimes are: Friday, April 28 at 4:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m., Saturday, April 29 at 8:00 p.m., and Sunday, April 30 at 2:00 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online or at the LeFevre box office. There will be a free pre-show event in the Intercultural Center on Friday, April 28 at 7:00 p.m. that will feature a panel by professors Jose Feito and Raina Leon. There will also be a post-show discussion with the cast following the 9:00 p.m. show on April 29.

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