Townsend Harris production takes audience on a journey to Washington Heights

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In the Heights, directed by English teacher Joseph Canzoneri and Rich Louis-Pierre, made its first appearance Friday, April 13 and made its way to the Townsend Harris stage again on Saturday, April 14.

Set in Washington Heights, In the Heights explores the lives of the Latin American community and follows the characters as they coast through experiences such as  love, poverty, and friendship in uptown Manhattan. Though the characters are all connected in some way, the play develops multiple storylines to give viewers insight into the issues faced by low-income communities and the struggles of American immigrants. In this tightly-knit Hispanic community, Usnavi, a bodega owner who dreams of owning his own bar in the Dominican Republic finds a love interest in Vanessa, who works in a beauty salon and is set on escaping to a studio in the West Village. Nina, a student at Stanford, struggles to balance her school work and love life as she develops an interest in Benny, an employee of her parents, and faces financial difficulties when she loses her academic scholarship.

However, through all of their struggles, the witty comments of Daniela, Carla, Sonny, and Abuela Claudia sparked moments of laughter. The play also largely consisted of numerous musical performances and dance numbers, including “In the Heights,” “No Me Diga,” and “Carnival del Barrio,” all of which were very popular with the audience.

Junior Matthew Cabrera, who played Usnavi, remarked, “Playing Usnavi was such a great experience for me. When I heard a production was being done for this play, I immediately reacted because I knew exactly who I wanted to be: the guy that raps. I never really sang before, but I have a real passion for lyrics that I never had a chance to express until now. Usnavi fits me well too as others have said; he’s a bit of an awkward guy who tries to be cool: basically my life in a nutshell. Either way, this play was beyond enjoyable for me because of all the experiences I’ve had and all the effort we put in for such a great show.”

He added, “In terms of choreography, set building, and vocals, this show is ridiculous, more than any play the school has ever done apparently.”

Much like the characters in the play, the cast also feels that they have grown to adopt the same community-like relationship with each other that the play embodies. Each person involved in the production of the play, from the main cast to the tech crew, put in hours of hard work in long and frequent rehearsals. “At times it was challenging and strenuous, but that’s what it takes to put on a good show. The break rehearsals suck your free time, but in the end everyone feels like family” said sophomore Lucas Ayala, who portrayed the role of Benny in the production.

“My favorite part is definitely the atmosphere during practices, getting to know the entire cast has been the best thing. I will miss going into the auditorium after school and jamming out to every song and singing our harmonies and laughing about all our inside jokes,” added junior Olivia O’ Reilly, an ensemble member.

Another ensemble member (Woman 4) junior Alyssa Ortiz said, “Being involved in the play has been the best experience I’ve had in this school. I’ve grown so close to people who were basically strangers to me before the play, and I got to enjoy my own culture through this play. Seeing all of our hard work and dedication pay off is one of the most rewarding feelings I’ve ever had.”

Olivia concluded, “I think that after seeing this play, people can see that a family is a group of people who stick together through it all, no matter what happens.”

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