Eleven Eagle Rock student actors, backed by our own student production team and an eight-piece professional pit band, are in final preparations for five performances of “In The Heights” at the Lincoln Center in Fort Collins starting next Wednesday, March 19.
This recent smash-hit Broadway musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes has been called “The West Side Story for a new generation” (Chicago Sun-Times), picking up a total of four Tony Awards in 2008. A feature film adaptation is currently in the initial stages of production.
For our staged version, Miranda’s inspiring story is enacted by a cast of talented Eagle Rock students under the direction of Isaac Leslie and Brighid Scanlon.
This musical takes place in the barrio (neighborhood) of Washington Heights, New York City, where the majority of residents are Dominican-American. The story’s characters include Usnavi, a Dominican bodega owner; Nina, a brilliant first-generation student; her doting parents Kevin and Camila who emigrated from Puerto Rico; and the Cuban-born “Abuela” Claudia, whose adopted family includes everyone on the block.
These characters struggle to find meaning in their personal stories and to transcend the grind of Big City life. In the rapidly gentrifying community of Washington Heights, home prices are rising and it seems that only pride, love and sheer determination — or a juicy piece of gossip — can offer them the strength to hold on for another day.
When someone in the working-class barrio wins the Lotto, the neighborhood is thrown into a tailspin. Themes of ambition, family, romance and personal identity play out over a sizzling soundtrack to create a Pan-American story that transcends national borders but is, at its heart, 100 percent New York City.
Since 2011, our Music and Performance Department has been part of the Berklee City Music Network. Nijaah Pierce (Vanessa), whose singing wowed audiences in last year’s performances of the rock musical “Rent,” is one of the students whose Berklee training will be on full display in her vocally challenging role.
Other members of the cast include the following Eagle Students:
- Angelina “Gigi” Hagopian as Usnavi
- Kira Sinclair as Abuela
- Derik Bernardez as Benny
- Brighid Scanlon as Camila & Carla
- Ashley Hernandez as Daniela
- Jon Jameson as Graffiti Pete
- Ziyad Johnstone as Kevin
- Tess Gantz as Nina
- Lesly DeLeon as the Piragua Guy
- Martin Araiza as Sonny
While ours is not a conservatory school, Derik Bernardez and Gigi Hagopian, among others, plan to pursue careers in music and/or acting after they graduate.
Preparations for this show began back in early fall 2013 with seven students from our theatre production class spending a semester learning to design physical sets, and what goes on behind the scenes in sound design, costume design, props and lighting.
Theater professors and crew leaders at University of Northern Colorado-Greeley not only welcomed the class on an extensive tour of their facilities, but offered our students ongoing professional advice, along with the use of their specialized equipment (such as a very cool Thermoform machine).
A number of cast members were in the class, with Tara Jones-Knight credited for costumes, Raji Blackwell for set design, and Derik Bernardez for sound design. Others with key functions include Emelia Eller on props, Nicole Bau on set design and Joey Flores and Oscar Reyes on set art.
Tickets can be reserved online at http://fcgov.com/lctix. Admission is “pay what you like,” with all proceeds going to the Eagle Rock Graduate Fund. Nightly shows start at 7 p.m. beginning on Wednesday, March 19, and run through Saturday, March 22 with an additional 1 p.m. matinee on Saturday.
The Lincoln Center is located at 417 W. Magnolia Street in Fort Collins.