Theater Production Shines with ‘In The Heights’

Benny (Asaru Wahls ’19) and Nina (Anecia Henry ’19) share a kiss, to cheers from the audience.  Photo Credit: Sharon Wong

Benny (Asaru Wahls ’19) and Nina (Anecia Henry ’19) share a kiss, to cheers from the audience. Photo Credit: Sharon Wong

By JAMIE SERRANO and SHARON WONG

Students and parents alike were invited to see Theater Production’s performance of the critically acclaimed musical In the Heights on May 2-3 in Midwood’s Howard Greenberg Auditorium.

The musical was different from others Midwood has done as it centers around the impact of Hispanic culture on a neighborhood.

 The story of In The Heights delves into the lives of a Latin neighborhood’s people and their daily struggle to make a living in Washington Heights. Steeped in Latino-Caribbean culture, the characters go on journeys of their own to find out what their home in the Heights truly means to them.

Midwood’s Theater Production spent months preparing for the show. 

“Being in a difficult show really pushed me to new lengths to find ways to improve my acting to match the complex characters that we were given,” said Jacob Gomez ’19,  who played Usnavi.

Gomez’s character owns a bodega and struggles to connect with others in the neighborhood because it is very different from the Dominican Republic, his home country. He is in love with Vanessa (played by Kiara Coryatt ’19), a young girl who works in a beauty salon and dreams of owning an apartment in the West Village. 

 “I think [the play] was very well done,” said Jessie Wu ’20. “It was put together very well, and it encouraged a lot of laughter and emotions that made it very memorable.”

Other characters in the story include Nina (played by Anecia Henry ’19), a Stanford University student who drops out of college because she can’t afford to pay the tuition. Back home, she meets Benny, played by Asaru Wahls ’19, who works at her father’s car service company. They fall in love, but Nina’s father objects due to their cultural differences.

Musical numbers in between scenes added an extra dimension to the performance. 

Elizabeth Rafailova ’20 said, “It was cool that the musical included a lot of dancing, and I like how they were all able to sing together and really make their hard work pay off.”

Midwood’s Jazz Ensemble provided the music.

Maram Alamri ’20 of the ensemble said, “I was very nervous at first, but with time you get used to it. I would do it again if I have a chance.”

Band member Claire McErlaine ’20 said, “It was different from what we’re used to, mainly because we’re a jazz band, and the Latin vibe of the song had different cues and rhythms. But we learned from it; it was a good educating experience as musicians.”

There are more rewards to performing than just the applause from the audience.

Gomez said, “Meeting and getting to know people is one of the most beautiful things that happens during these kinds of productions. There are new friendships you would’ve never made otherwise, and you get to see yourself, others, and the play not only come together but also improve and surpass expectations.”

Claire McErlaine and Nam Ta contributed to this article.

NewsCasey Levinson