DBHS Drama Reaches New Heights

Emily Jacobsson, A&E Editor

In advertising for “In the Heights,” the Diamond Bar High School drama department emphasized that it was created by the beloved Lin-Manuel Miranda. And while Miranda’s influence is strong in the musical, with the cleverly written raps that made “Hamilton” famous, drama’s performance made sure that that was not the only notable thing about the musical.

With a perfectly crafted set, infectious rhythmic music and a cast that could sing just as well as they could rap, “In the Heights” easily met the high expectations set by last year’s “Les Miserables.”  

“In the Heights” tells the stories of the members of a close-knit community in the predominantly Puerto Rican and Dominican Washington Heights. The show begins with Usnavi (Jaden Campbell), a store owner who dreams of returning to the Dominican Republic. The girl of his dreams, Vanessa (Chloe Reyes), is also busy trying to leave the small city for good. At the same time, Nina (Ariana Gonzalez) returns with news that she has dropped out of college, completely shocking her parents.

As usual for drama productions, the actors excelled in their roles and were able to recreate the colorful Caribbean culture through their dancing and Spanish-laced English. Gonzalez’s choir background shines through with her powerful solos, and she is impressive as the lead in her first DBHS drama production. Reyes, whose distinctive vocal talent has been present in recent drama productions, returns as the sassy, determined Vanessa. While Campbell stands out with his ability to recite the syntactically complicated raps without missing a beat.

The school-designed set looked professional, completely encapturing the feeling of Washington Heights. The use of different lighting to reflect different moods throughout also added an extra touch to the production.

The outstanding skill level of the school orchestra is common knowledge at DBHS, and their performance in the pit was no exception. Before the musical began, the musicians  introduced the audience to the musical’s Hip Hop and Caribbean influences. Yet at points the music overpowered the singers. Especially during the fast-paced songs, much of the emotion being expressed through the lyrics was lost to the sound of trumpets blaring coming from the pit.

Fans of “Hamilton” will definitely be able to find similarities to enjoy in “In the Heights,” but the musical is impressive on its own. The musical will continue April 27-29.