Guyer takes leap with ‘Heights’

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Courtesy photo/Guyer High School Theatre Arts Department
Usnavi’s neighborhood bodega attracts most of the denizens of Washington Heights, a Dominican-American neighborhood in Manhattan. The bodega is the emblem of the community’s American dream in the upcoming Guyer High School musical, ‘In the Heights.’
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The Guyer High School Theatre Arts Department opens its staging of the musical In the Heights this week.

The musical by composer and lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda and writer Quiara Alegria Hudes follows an ethnically mixed community over three days. Life is a hardscrabble existence for the tight-knit community of struggling business owners, a college dropout and dreamers.

“Abuela” Claudia is the matriarch of the neighborhood, and the conscience of the community. Her sudden death plunges the largely Dominican-American block into uncertainty, and her sustaining spirit could change things for the narrator of the musical, Usnavi.

Guyer theater arts teacher and director Eleshia Crotwell said she considers the play the most important the program has done.

In the Heights is different from any other musical at Guyer,” Crotwell said in a news release. “It contains rap, break dance, hip-hop dance, salsa and a great deal of Spanish speaking. It is a show about a community on one block in Washington Heights, Manhattan, comprised of community members of different ethnicities and backgrounds.”

The characters are immigrants — and the children and grandchildren of those immigrants — from the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Mexico.

The students began rehearsing the musical in July, and Crotwell said the students, teachers and parents have helped the cast and crew better understand some of the cultural idiosyncrasies in the show. The crew also built the biggest set the department has ever attempted in-house.

“One of our actresses moved to the U.S. from Puerto Rico just four years ago,” Crotwell said. “Her family prepared the cast and crew a traditional Puerto Rican meal, and described and explained some of the differences in Puerto Rican cooking. In fact, the Saturday before we open, we will be sharing the traditional Puerto Rican Christmas dinner.”

In the Heights attracted Guyer’s most ethnically diverse cast and crew to date, Crotwell said, and expanded the program’s reach.

— Lucinda Breeding


What: High School Theatre Arts Department presents the musical by composer and lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda and writer Quiara Alegria Hudes

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and Sept. 12-14

Where: Guyer High auditorium, 7501 Teasley Lane.

Details: Tickets cost $10 and will be available at the door.

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