HOUSTON – Oct. 13, 2017 – When Spring High School’s drama department announced its fall musical production of “In the Heights,” the buzz at the school was noticeable, and turnout at auditions was unusually large. Something about the show was attracting the students, connecting with them and drawing them out. For senior Rosie Sanchez, it was no surprise.
“I feel like people are excited to see their culture and their identity represented onstage,” said Sanchez, who plays the part of Abuela Claudia in the school’s production.
Running at 7 p.m. Oct. 27, 28 and 30, with a matinee performance at 2 p.m. on Oct. 28, the show boasts a cast and crew of more than 75 students, including some drawn to theater for the first time. For the show’s director, Katie Butler, the new faces are a welcome addition.
“We have a very diverse student population, and we wanted to be able to celebrate that,” Butler said. “The way the story is conveyed musically, it really relates to a younger, more diverse generation.”
Set over a three-day period in the lives of residents of New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood, the play deals with everyday themes, including financial hardship, the loss of a loved one, and the struggle to honor cultural and family roots while finding one’s own unique identity. The musical’s score, which won a Tony Award for composer Lin-Manuel Miranda, is a mix of contemporary rhythms and musical styles, including pop, rap, Latin and hip-hop.
Even outside theater circles, the show’s composer was already well known to many Spring students when the production was announced. Miranda’s scores for “Hamilton: An American Musical” and the Disney animated film “Moana” – together with his outspokenness on social issues – helped attract a large turnout of students eager to work on the show.
“When the 2016 Tony Awards happened, just after the Pulse Nightclub shooting, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s speech was so iconic,” Sanchez said, “when he broke down crying, saying: ‘Love is love is love is love is love.’ I think ‘Hamilton’ and ‘Moana’ really got his name out there, and I think that when students heard we were doing one of his shows, it really did bring them out.”
Hurricane Harvey threw the show’s original production schedule into disarray, delaying final casting decisions and the start of rehearsals. The school was able to reschedule opening night, but Butler and her cast and crew are still feeling the storm’s impact.
“We’re on a very tight timeline, and we had to make some tough decisions,” she said. “But in the end, the kids wanted this. Some were contacting us during the storm, saying, ‘What are we going to do about the musical?’ We couldn’t let them down.”
Tickets for “In the Heights” are $10 for students and $15 for adults, and can be purchased through the Lion Players website, or at the box office prior to each performance.