Student Story: Cast Hits High At Pennsauken High School’s Production Of ‘In The Heights’

By: William Pedrick, Clayton High School, Clayton

Pennsauken High School performance of “In the Heights” ran from March 30 through April 2. Photo credit: Pennsauken High School Facebook page.

PENNSAUKEN TOWNSHIP, N.J. — Audiences came after sunrise to see the Carnaval del Barrio at Pennsauken High School‘s production of “In The Heights.”

“In The Heights” was conceptualized by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Miranda also did the music and lyrics for this show while Quiara Alegría Hudes wrote the book. After tryouts in 2005 and an Off-Broadway run, the show moved to Broadway in 2008. Winning four Tony Awards, “In The Heights” was Miranda’s first Broadway show. A movie of the same name was released in 2021 with some edits to plot points and themes. The original musical, though, is a story of community in the neighborhood of Washington Heights in NYC. The largely Dominican neighborhood is home to Usnavi de la Vega, the owner of a bodega who lost his parents at a young age. The area also includes Nina Rosario, a student who dropped out of Stanford, much to her parents’ disapproval.

Pennsauken’s production of “In The Heights” had the right cast and crew for this show. This diverse cast brought the community of Washington Heights to South Jersey, while the tech crew brought the whole neighborhood. Numbers like “The Club” and “Carnaval del Barrio” were standout performances.

Mayeline Rodriguez (Usnavi) captured the essence of Usnavi’s character greatly. Dalia Abou Harb (Nina) also graced the show with her abilities. She made her part of the plot intriguing with good vocals and impressive acting. Both leads showed believable chemistry with their respective love interests.

Speaking of those characters, Juliana Parrilla (Vanessa) was an incredible vocalist and helped direct some of the show. Meanwhile, Aiden Scott (Benny) was also a talented singer, dancer, and actor throughout the show. Other notable cast members include the hilarious Leilani Flores (Sonny), the sweet Martiza Olarte (Abuela), and the fabulous Maica Nesmith (Piragua Guy). The entire ensemble was, for the most part, energized and complete for the group numbers. The cast showcased their best dancing and singing skills in large ensemble numbers, which were often student-choreographed.

One of the most astounding accomplishments of this production was the ability of a few student directors to choreograph several scenes, in addition to learning their part in the show. The sets, lighting, and digital firework effects were also impressively done. With only slight sound difficulties, the technical aspects of this show shined. Credit for stage management overall must be given to Nichole Quick, the production stage manager.

This show greatly closed out with spectacular singing, dancing, sets, and more!

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