SOUTH PLAINFIELD - South Plainfield High School (SPHS) will be presenting their Spring Musical, "In the Heights," on Friday, April 5th at 7p.m., Saturday, April 6th at 7p.m. and Sunday, April 7th at 2p.m. The musical will take place in the Joseph A. Mondoro Auditorium at South Plainfield High School. Tickets are $8 each and will be sold at the door.
“Working with the students on 'In The Heights' has been amazing,” said SPHS Director of Choral Activities Dr. Donna Kregler, who is the Musical Director of the play. “The students are excited, hard-working, dedicated and we have so much fun in rehearsals.”
Written by the creator of Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda, the play is set in Washington Heights, New York. With dynamic choreographed routines, robust songs and a storyline rich in tradition and excitement, "In The Heights," was named the winner of the 2008 Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Score, Best Choreography and Best Orchestrations.
“The musical is about sharing the old with the new, so it’s very touching and moving,” said Producer/Director Linda Viel. “It has to do with family and traditions.”
As written in the musical’s playbill: “'In The Heights' tells the universal story of a vibrant community in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood - a place where the coffee from the corner bodega is light and sweet, the windows are always open and the breeze carries the rhythm of three generations of music. It’s a community on the brink of change, full of hopes, dreams and pressures, where the biggest struggles can be deciding which traditions you take with you, and which ones you leave behind.”
“Everyone in the Drama Department has put all of their time and effort into this show, which has made us come together as more of a family than a group of kids doing a show,” said Ninth Grade Student Kori Caicedo, who plays “Sonny.”
Rehearsals have been imperative for the hardworking students and staff. The cast includes: Gabriel Soto (Usnavi De La Vega), Gabriella Lippel (Nina Rosario), Jake Rivera (Kevin Rosario), Alyssa Rivera (Camila Rosario), Kenny Williams (Benny), Mary O’Dell (Vanessa), Kori Caicedo (Sonny), Sara DeSimone (Abuela Claudia), Amanda Bermo-Merchan (Daniela), Gianna Glover (Carla), Justin Bell (Graffiti Pete), Joel Arias (Piraguero), Gerrolin Beauzile (Bianca), Nicole Calavetta (Maria), Sarah Housel (Luciana), Patrick Joyner (Jose) and Sarah Gwiazda (Yolanda).
“All of us, as a drama family, have spent endless hours at rehearsals and I am so proud of how far we’ve come,” said Tenth Grade Student Genesis Bosse, who is part of the “Ensemble.” “I’m going to miss spending time with everyone after the show is over, especially the seniors.”
Spending much of the performance on stage with choreographed dance routines, are the neighborhood community. They include: Chase Atkinson, Evan Cortes, Kelly Gorman, Patrick Joyner, Lauryn McMillan, Alexis Salter, Jordan Lovett, Genesis Bosse, Sara Dabul, David Gross, Abby Lapp, Alexis Ratti, Megan Valdes, Jaelin Dorsett, Adam Casaliggi, Anisha Goel, Sarah Gwiazda, Cassidy Leonardis, Jaydah Ruiz, Samantha Zelek and Ashlee Jacobs.
“We started at the end of January and it’s a dynamite group,” said Viel. “They’re very talented.”
Viel is new this year to the South Plainfield High School Spring Musical, but as producer and director, brings with her a vast knowledge and experience of theater.
“I have done twenty-five musicals and at least twenty-five projects in the community theater,” said Viel. “I just retired from teaching Science and Theater. I’m very demanding and I’m very strict, but I like to have a lot of fun and I like them to learn.”
With over eighty students participating in the musical in the cast, crew, pit orchestra and additional student volunteers as well as countless adults volunteers and staff helping behind the scenes, the performance has been an enormous undertaking. Many say is a rewarding experience they will never forget.
“Rehearsals have been stressful, but it’s worth every ounce of sweat,” said Caicedo. “Now that the show is around the corner, we all could not be more proud of how far we’ve come from our first rehearsal in January.”
“It is a huge time-commitment for the kids and they certainly have an enormous amount of talent,” said Kregler. “I love vocal rehearsals and singing, and waking up every day to do what I love is just wonderful!”
The musical will be accompanied by the Pit Orchestra, led by SPHS Band Director William Haughwout. Members of the Pit Orchestra include: Leisel Co, Mikael Evans, Emily Wong, Johnathan Mohan, Nidhi Patel, Jessenia Moreno, Thomas O’Brien, Harrison Anesh, Brandon Luster, Jason Lakshmanan, Michael Nguyen, Scott Cardona, Jason Rodas, Neil Nemetz, Sarah Abdelsalam, Amanda Senatore, Jessica Savaria and Brandon Weber.
“I was really excited getting the music,” said Tenth Grade student Jessenia Moreno, woodwind specialist in the Pit Orchestra. “At first, I was overwhelmed with rhythm and time signatures, but now that it is showtime, I am very prepared to give a really exquisite performance!”
Many students will be working behind the scenes to bring the performance to life. Ryan Carey and April Nguyen are in charge of backstage as Stage Managers. The Stage Crew also includes Lia Cataldo, Rob Cesareo and Michael Skolnick. The Light Manager is Jullianne Chavez, along with the Lighting Crew composed of Joseph Cassio, Nilyn Meza and Amy Swartz. The Sound Mixer is Xavier Brown and Sound Crew includes Gillian Delacruz, Sarah Abrego and Alanna Rivera.
“It’s a collective effort,” said Viel. “I’ve brought in a lot of my theater friends here, who have fixed the microphones, worked on the lights and have worked with the wonderful people who are in charge of all of this to get this up to speed. The students have gotten to meet a lot of my friends, who just love theater.”
Choreographer Alanna Bradley helped the students master elaborate dance routines along with Dance Captain Genesis Bosse and Student Choreographers Sarah Gwiazda and Kenny Williams. Set Design was provided by Perry Balog. Lighting Design was done by Don Schlachter. Set Layout and Construction was provided by Chris Cassio and Greg Cassio. Lighting Design was done by Don Schlachter, Sound Design was provided by Chris Kondrick. Director of Sound and Lighting was also provided by Chris Cassio. Apart from her role as producer and director, Viel also organized the Costumes and Stage Design.
“I’ve been able to work with a whole bunch of people, whom I just met this year,” said Viel. “This school is an awesome faculty. Everyone has been just amazing. I’m very excited to be here and the students are excited for the performance!”