Arts & Entertainment

West Orange High School Brings “In the Heights” to Life

Cast, crew, and musicians of "In the Heights." Credits: Cynthia Cumming
WOHS Principal Hayden Moore at the Senior Citizen performance. Credits: Cynthia Cumming

WEST ORANGE, NJ — Approximately 680 tickets, or about 84 percent of the seats in the West Orange High School (WOHS) auditorium, were sold for the final WOHS performance of its spring musical “In the Heights” on Saturday night, boosting the overall ticket sales to more than 1,839 over the course of four nights.

Based on the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical of the same name, “In the Heights” tells the story of a handful of Puerto-Rican-ethnic and Dominican-Republic-ethnic New Yorkers living in Washington Heights, Manhattan.

“We wanted a contemporary show that infused all different styles of music,” said assistant director and vocal director John Hellyer.

Sign Up for E-News

Much like “Hamilton,” the original musical was directed by and starred Lin-Manuel Miranda, featured a hybrid of hip-hop and ethnic music, elaborate dancing, strong vocals, small moments of comedy to balance out with the dramatic moments, and very minor breaks in between songs.

“It was the right show, for this year and for this group of students,” said Hellyer. “Everyone worked incredibly hard.”

The show also starred a few returning cast members from last year’s WOHS musical, “The Little Mermaid,” including senior Sophia Torres, who transitioned from playing the villainous Ursula to Abuela Claudia this year. This year, her character raised lead character Usnavi (played by junior Ruben Alexander Centeno), who is in love with Vanessa (sophomore Indigo Jackson).

“It was an amazing transition,” said Torres. “I had to the most incredible time bringing a heart-wrenching yet compassionate character to life. It’s a very complex character that I’ve never played in a musical before. So, it was a very refreshing experience.”

Senior Madeline Machado also made her final performance at WOHS this weekend after appearing in six previous WOHS productions.

“[I’m going to miss most] the people, the music that’s always being sung even when you tell the people to shut up, and the long hours of a lot of yelling,” Machado said after the show.

Other lead characters included Nina Rosario, played junior Gabby Florendo; Carla and Kevin Rosario, played respectively by junior Madelyn Machado and sophomore Joe Nalieth; and Benny, played by sophomore Khalil Louigene.

A supporting cast of featured singers and dancers helped to weave the underscoring music, movement and vitality of the production.

The set was designed and built by EMS Art teacher Melanie Racanelli and WOHS Technology Engineering teacher Max Grossman, the sound design was directed by Kirk Roberts and lighting was directed by Lauren Grof-Tisza.

Students rehearsed for months under the direction of producer Deb Coen, director Wendy Mapes-Chrzanowski, Vocal Director John Hellyer and dance instructor Melissa Sande. Musical director Erin Lagatic, music teachers Ryan Krewer, Joe Romano, and Lew Kelly, and a team of student musicians transported the audience to Broadway.

This is article was written by Joshua Bake, a West Orange High School student participating in the TAPinto West Orange internship program.

Don’t miss important news in your town. Click HERE to subscribe for free, or follow us on Facebook and on Twitter at @WestOrangeTAP.

To download the FREE TAPinto App, Click here for Android or Click here for iOS

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

West Orange

$100 OFF per Week for Summer Camp Now!

July 12, 2018

Guerrero Marital Arts is now offering an 8-week summer camp for summer 2018!

Pick which weeks you want!

Camp Weeks are:

July 16, July 23, July 30, August 6, August 13, August 20, August 27

Includes the following:

Fun (through Sports, Play and Games)
Field Trips (may cost extra)
Life Lessons
Reading Time
Martial Arts
A great place to ...

Bucco Couture Summer Sale on All Custom Suits, Shirts and Casual Wear

NUTLEY, NJ — Save while looking sharp! 20% off all summer wear an extra 10% savings for Military, Veterans and all first responders at Bucco Couture, 187 Franklin Avenue in Nutley, with the launch of some new products such as our tracksuit line, crushed cotton drawstring pants and jeans. 

We also carry Bugatchi and Rober Graham casual wear as well as stretch high V-neck ...

Newark Lures Amazon With $1 Billion Payroll Tax Incentive

July 14, 2018

NEWARK, NJ - Amazon will get a payroll tax break at a cost of $1 billion to the city should the company open its second headquarters in Newark, according to one of two ordinances approved by the Newark City Council council to sweeten the deal for the corporate giant and stand out among other locations vying for Amazon’s so-called HQ2.

“The City Council has brought Newark a ...

Upcoming Events

Wed, August 15, 10:00 AM

Cancer Center Resource Room, Belleville

Living Well with Parkinson’s Disease Support ...

Health & Wellness


Sat, August 25, 2:00 PM

Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center (OSPAC), West Orange


Arts & Entertainment Giving Back

West Orange PAL Spring Travel Baseball Teams Wrap Up (Championship Team Photos Included)

The West Orange PAL Spring Travel Baseball season started with a cold front. Practices began indoors in January with teams practicing two nights a week working on conditioning and baseball fundamentals. Once the snow had melted teams began battling the cold and working outdoors, with three or four practices a week in addition to their games. 

And the hard work and dedication paid off! All ...

Public Invited to Essex County Opioid Use Prevention Task Force Meeting

July 15, 2018

CALDWELL, NJ — All Essex County residents, mayors and councils, law enforcement members, school officials, clergy members, civic organizations and more are invited to join in the next Essex County Opioid Use Prevention Task Force meeting on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. to discuss how the Essex County communities can join work together to eradicate this epidemic.

The meeting will be held at the ...

Would Shedding

How much wood wouldn’t a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck woodn’t?


Enough already.  


I get it.  It is an easy mistake to make, misusing would and wouldn’t.  It happens to me all the time.


“Honey, when I said I didn’t see any reason why I would go to the ballet, I meant to say I couldn’t see ...