Are we in Branford…or In the Heights?

By Alexandra Augustaknewspaper

It is that time of year again, when Branford High School eagerly awaits the opening of the always spectacular Spring Musical. This year, In the Heights was chosen to be preformed. “It is much more modern,” says co-director Ms. C when comparing this year’s musical to the ones of the past, like last year’s Aida being set in ancient Egypt.

The musical centers around the lives of an unordinary subject: the Latino (Dominican Republic, Havana, Puerto Rico, Mexico) community of New York’s own Washington Heights. Featured within the play is Usnavi, a proud Dominican shop owner who narrates the story through rapping. Soon, the audience is familiarized with the Rosario’s, a family who endlessly has to live up, to what it seems like, everyone’s expectations. While Nina, the daughter of the Rosario’s, struggles to deal with her overflowing potential and overwhelming poverty, her father fights an inner conflict of if to keep his family or employees afloat in the tough economic times.

Of course, hope always prevails, and this musical is no stranger to dreaming. In between songs regenerating vibes of longing and ambition, character Vanessa imagines a life filled with far away places and air conditioning, while her neighbor, Benny, envisions himself as a businessman. In each case, the character’s lack of funds is what separates reality from dreams, and even gives a voice for social justice as rapped by jokester Sonny.

Everything changes in the neighborhood after Usnavi sells a winning lottery ticket days before a city wide black out, and the characters are dealt a new deck of problems that easily translates into rap battles. In the end, both contemporary and unconventional musical goers will be able to appreciate this theater production. Along with the various love stories and social commentary featured throughout, the acting, rapping, and singing of the talented Branford High School student base are sure to please.

The whole production was put on with the help of not only Branford students, but also parent volunteers. Mary Mchonnel, a volunteer who has been helping out with the musical production for seven years now, says “[The crew] is like one big family, we’re doing our best for these kids…” Mary’s fellow volunteers have helped with makeup, hair, costumes, and practically all else involving the musical. In fact, the construction and painting crew have been working ever since Christmas Break. When asked what to look out for, Mary advised to “take it all in” saying that the audience should “scan the entire stage and set and look at all the cast.” After all, the musical goes beyond that which is only seen on show nights. Backstage, a slew of high school students work through tiring evenings to make the stage come to life. Junior Morgan Reed, who has been working in the Makeup department now for three years agrees that it is a lot of work, but definitely worth it. “I wasn’t able to be in the play because of [the conflicting schedule surrounding] basketball, but I decided I wanted to be a part of it somehow so I did makeup,” she states. Junior Jordan Disilverato, who works in backstage crew and props, agrees saying that “It’s a good experience, you meet new people and learn what goes on past the show nights.” While everyone working both on and off the stage can agree that the musical requires a lot of time and effort, they are all keen on mentioning what a rewarding experience it can be. Sam Brookman, an ensemble member with featured roles, laughs while saying, “It’s the best thing I could do during high school… It’s one of the main things that makes life at high school sort of okay sometimes, and it’s really fun.”

So be sure to check out the production this year, shows are running Wednesday through Sunday. And students, if at any point you are so inspired to join a part of the crew next year be ready for a commitment. “It’s very busy and a lot of hours, so be prepared for that,” says freshman Casey Cunnigham. “It definitely keeps you on your feet,” says Jordan, “you have to have good listening skills to know when things go on stage.” Sam advises that while “everyone can learn to dance and everyone can learn to act,” future hopefuls should “starting thinking about yourself as a creator and musician, and expose yourself to more music.” And if you wish to practice your voice, Sam says that “[joining] chorus is a viable option for that.” And while it all may require both immense time and patience, the play is a wonderful experience to be a part of during your high school years, so take a chance and join and be a part of the cast and crew that make it happen each year!