Drama preview: In the Heights

Tess Guan, Web Editor

In addition to the All Male dance team, Diamond Bar High School now has another hip-hop group on campus— drama. This year’s musical, “In The Heights,” has a rush of Latin influence, ranging from beat boxing and rapping to salsa dancing.

The musical, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda of “Hamilton” fame, is set in Washington Heights, a predominantly Dominican-American neighborhood in New York City, where Miranda was born.

“I chose the musical because it celebrates immigrants in the U.S. and underscores their dreams, desires, and challenges,” DBHS drama teacher Beatrice Casagran said.  “I thought it was topical and likely to resonate with our student audience.”

The story revolves around the lives of the neighborhood residents. Usnavi (played by senior Jaden Campbell), owner of a small grocery store, narrates the play’s exposition.

“It’s contemporary, it has a lot of hip hop and rap elements, which makes it different from other musicals,” Campbell said.

Usnavi was raised by Abuela Claudia (senior Charlotte Revilla), as his parents died young, and aspires to win the lottery and return back to the Dominican Republic. He is in love with Vanessa (senior Chloe Reyes), who works with Carla (junior Mary Thomas) at a beauty salon owned by Daniela (junior Amelia Anijielo); she also hopes to leave the neighborhood. Trouble starts as Nina (senior Ariana Gonzalez) returns home from Stanford University after dropping out. Her parents (Daniel Durkee and Pilar Alcazar) have spent their life savings giving her a better life and disapprove of her academic leave.

“This play shows struggle, realistic struggle that everyone goes through, especially when it comes to immigrants,” Anijielo said. “It shows how immigrants cope within America and how their daily life is. There is struggle, and there is sacrifice, but they still thank God that they are still able to be in America.”

The musical has been in the works since last summer, while preparations and rehearsals began in February. The group has been practicing every Monday through Thursday for about three hours a day. Due to the musical’s Latin influence, some songs will be sung in Spanish and salsa steps have been incorporated into the choreography. The performers have been practicing their Spanish and Latin dancing, as these are the two major highlights of the play.

“A lot of songs have Spanish hints here and there, one song that we’ve learned so far requires us to speak Spanish but it’s the same phrase over and over again,” said junior Ellie Desmond, with Thomas jumping in. “Since they’re both romance languages, they have a lot of words in common, so it’s easier to figure out what you’re saying.” Both students are currently taking French at DBHS and were unfamiliar with Spanish prior to the musical.

The musical will be accompanied by students in DBHS’s wind ensemble, which Desmond is a part of. In addition, the stagecraft class will also help make the props and sets.

The musical will open Thursday, April 20, and run through two weekends, April 20-22, and April 27-29. All shows will start at 7 p.m.; tickets are $15 for students and $18 for adults.