Theatre Arts Program Links 'In the Heights' with Puerto Rican Fundraiser
The Theatre Arts Program at Sacred Heart University presents In the Heights, by Lin-Manuel Miranda, winner of four Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Score. In the Heights was the debut Broadway musical for Miranda, who also wrote the smash hit, Hamilton.
In the Heights, set over the course of three days, involves characters in the largely Hispanic-American Washington Heights neighborhood in New York City and includes rap, salsa dancing and bodegas. A “cool” feature of the show is that the main character raps more than sings, according to sophomore Andrew Patino, one of the student producers.
“The whole premise of the show is how the neighborhood people have moved here from the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Puerto Rico. Now they’re in America, and they’re all trying to figure out what home is,” Patino said. “That’s the theme throughout the play: Is it the people who make a home, or is it the place that makes a home?”
Justin Weigel, also a sophomore producer, invites the public to come out and “share the show’s powerful vibes and forget about the world for two hours. Love is at the heart of this play, and a strong sense of family and community, which is a big part of the Hispanic culture. As the characters experience various hardships, love pulls them through.”
Performances are Thursday, April 12; Friday, April 13; and Saturday, April 14, at 8 p.m., with a matinee scheduled on Sunday, April 15, at 3 p.m. on stage at SHU’s Edgerton Center for the Performing Arts.
In keeping with the University’s social justice and community service tradition, the cast is conducting a complementary campaign, Taking Love to New Heights, with the goal of raising $10,000 for Puerto Rican hurricane relief. Miranda has made it his mission to help the island, where his parents are from, and the SHU cast want to support his efforts.
“We didn’t think it would be right to do the show without contributing. In addition to the fundraiser, we’re going to donate a portion of each ticket directly to Puerto Rican relief,” Patino said. “The cast has really been taking fundraising into our own hands. The harsh reality is that all these people in Puerto Rico are still in need after all this time. It’s our duty to help.”
Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, 2017, plunging its 3.4 million residents into a desperate humanitarian crisis. The island territory of the United States, in the northeast Caribbean Sea, had already been facing a recession for more than a decade before the hurricane. Much of the island remains without power, seven months after Maria struck. The cast made a video for its fundraising website.
The SHU Theatre Arts Program comprises innovative and multi-talented pre-professional students dedicated to creating high-quality theatrical productions. Patino and Weigel praised the support and guidance they have received from Jerry Goehring, director of performing arts and a Tony- and Grammy-nominated producer, and Leo Carusone, assistant director, whose legendary credits extend on- and off-Broadway and all across the country.
Weigel, who began singing and acting at age 5, said the Theatre Arts Program has helped him grow as a young artist and performer. “It’s a thrill and an honor to work with Jerry and Leo. It’s just incredible what we learn from them. One of the joys for Andrew and me is we get to oversee the whole production of devastatingly talented actors. We’re pulling out all of the stops for In the Heights.”
“I think it’s great that SHU gives students the opportunity to be producers. Pretty much how we run shows is just like Broadway. I just love it,” Patino said. “I started as a performer and recently went over to the other side of things and want to be a producer as a career.”
Weigel said having the opportunity to produce a show under the guidance of highly acclaimed industry professionals like Goehring and Carusone is extraordinary for students, and the experience is immersive. “The cast and crew energize us every day. They share the passion and their love of the show, which makes our job so much easier. We’re like a big family. We put the fun in dysfunctional!”
The creative team for In the Heights are: director, Jerry Goehring; musical director, Leo Carusone; assistant director, Hannah Jones; producers, Justin Weigel and Andrew Patino; production stage manager, Christine Seppala; and assistant stage managers, Olivia Porriello and Mae Archaki.
Cast members are Michael Villanueva, Courtney O’Shea, Rebecca Radisic, Henley Solomon, Minas Kostis, Serge Valcourt, Mark Bosse, Jake Doble, Sidney Choothesa, Chris Faccenda, Grace Falvey, Melissa Ferlo, Zachary Lane, Leela Gallucci, Cara Gileau, Jenna Larson, Samantha Lodato, Samantha O’Donnell, Amy Obraitis, Maria Ogundolani, Andrew Patino, Ruthie Phillips, Sarah Possenti, Marisa Powers, Isabela Scaglione, Jenna Sheridan, Stachakay Silvera, Devin Towne, Kristyn Velez and Julia Vezza.
Tickets may be purchased by phone at 203-371-7908 or at the box office prior to each performance. To purchase tickets online and for additional information, visit edgertoncenter.org.