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School of the Arts

In the Heights

In the Heights logo

California State University, Chico’s School of the Arts presents the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical In the Heights as this season’s spring musical. Performances are Thursday–Saturday, April 30–May 2, at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday–Sunday, May 2–3, at 2 p.m. in Laxson Auditorium. Purchase tickets at the University Box Office or by calling 530-898-6333.

The struggling residents of a Hispanic community in the Washington Heights district of New York are on the brink of change. Usnavi, a young bodega owner, dreams of going back to his native country, the Dominican Republic. Vanessa, whom Usnavi longs to date, works in the beauty salon and struggles to put a down payment on a new apartment. Meanwhile, the Rosario’s are grappling with funding the Ivy League education of their daughter, Nina, and with disagreements about her relationship with Benny. When it is discovered that a $96,000 winning lottery ticket was sold at the bodega, the prospect of changing the livelihoods of the people and the community hangs in the air.

In the Heights is a Broadway musical with music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda and book by Quiara Alegría Hudes. The musical was first conceptualized by Miranda, who wrote the first draft in 1999 as a sophomore in college. The work contained freestyle rap, bodegas, and salsa numbers and was accepted to be performed at Wesleyan University’s student theater company, Second Stage. Miranda was approached by John Buffalo Mailer, Neil Patrick Stewart, Anthony Veneziale, and Thomas Kail, two Weslayan seniors and two alumni who had seen the show, with a vision to expand the musical for Broadway. In 2002, Miranda began working with Kail on the musical. Alegría Hudes was added to the team in 2004.

In 2005, In the Heights premiered at Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Connecticut. Kail was the show’s director and Alex Lacamoire was the music director. In 2007, the musical’s Off-Broadway run began. Kail and Lacamoire retained their positions and Andy Blankenbuehler was the choreographer. The production was nominated for nine Drama Desk Awards and won Outstanding Ensemble and Outstanding Choreography. 

In the Heights opened on Broadway in 2008 at the Richard Rogers Theatre. The directors and choreographer were the same as the Off-Broadway production and many of the principle characters retained their roles. The musical was nominated for 13 Tony Awards and won four (Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Choreography, and Best Orchestrations). It also won a Grammy for Best Musical Show Album. The musical closed in 2011 after 29 previews and 1,184 regular performances.

Since then, there has been a North American tour and international productions in several Latin American countries, the Philippines, Japan, the UK, Germany, South Korea, Canada, and Denmark. In 2017, the first Spanish version opened in the United States. Although it had been performed in Spanish in other countries, this was the first Spanish translation sanctioned and approved by Miranda. Coming in summer 2020 is a Warner Bros. Pictures film adaptation of In the Heights

The critique of the musical In the Heights has been positive. The New York Times stated, “when this musical erupts in one of its expressions of collective joy, the energy it gives off could light up the George Washington Bridge for a year or two.” Variety said, “That depth of feeling, together with the wit of Miranda's lyrics, the playful dexterity of his rhymes, his dynamic score and a bunch of truly winning performances, make the show an uncalculated charmer.” New York Magazine wrote, “A groundbreaking 21st-century musical. This extraordinary blend of old and new pushes the sound of Broadway even deeper into fresh territory. It’s one of the most satisfying musicals in years.”


CSU, Chico Selects Cast for Spring Musical, "In the Heights"

In the Heights logo

California State University, Chico’s School of the Arts recently held auditions for the spring musical, In the Heights. Performances take place Thursday–Saturday, April 30–May 2 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday–Sunday, May 2–3 at 2 p.m. in Laxson Auditorium. Tickets are available at the University Box Office, 530-898-6333.

Auditions for In the Heights were held over three days. Over 120 people auditioned as director Matthew Teague Miller searched for those who could fill the 22 available roles.

“This show requires all different skill sets,” said Miller. “Some actors need to dance both hip-hop and salsa, while others need to play roles far older than they actually are. Many are bilingual and everybody sings and acts.”

Auditions began with a monologue and song selection. Those who made callbacks then showed off their dancing skills. From there, the numbers were narrowed down to a handful of people who were asked to sing material from the show for specific characters.

Cast members selected include Raymundo Ballejos Jr., Jessie Grimaldo, Mario Mena Zavala, Feliciana Barkley-Brinson, Ali Hoghoughi, Sofia Gutierrez, Luciano Castaldo, Mandy Cervantes, Demondra Martin, Jacqueline Gil-Devor, Sidus Choup, Jackson Tatiano, Juan C. Bolaños, Susy Correa, Kyle Crowley, Julie Ewert, Natsumi Kawamura, Caroline Krolicki, Molly Odell, Nate Padilla, Harrie Schaufel and Anastasia Schmeekle.

“The pieces all came together and the puzzle fits perfectly,” said Miller.

In the Heights is a Broadway musical written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of “Hamilton.” It was nominated for 13 Tony Awards and won four (Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Choreography and Best Orchestrations). The New York Times stated, “when this musical erupts in one of its expressions of collective joy, the energy it gives off could light up the George Washington Bridge for a year or two.” Variety said, “That depth of feeling, together with the wit of Miranda's lyrics, the playful dexterity of his rhymes, his dynamic score and a bunch of truly winning performances, make the show an uncalculated charmer.” New York Magazine wrote, “A groundbreaking 21st-century musical. This extraordinary blend of old and new pushes the sound of Broadway even deeper into fresh territory. It’s one of the most satisfying musicals in years.”

In the Heights tells the story of the struggling residents of a Hispanic community in the Washington Heights district of New York. Usnavi, a young bodega owner, dreams of going back to his native country, the Dominican Republic. Vanessa, whom Usnavi longs to date, works in the beauty salon and struggles to put a down payment on a new apartment. Meanwhile, the Rosario’s are grappling with funding the Ivy League education of their daughter, Nina, and with disagreements about her relationship with Benny. When it is discovered that a $96,000 winning lottery ticket was sold at the bodega, the prospect of changing the livelihoods of the people and the community hangs in the air.

“This cast is perfectly suited to bring this electric and exciting musical to life,” said Miller. “I cannot wait to see this incredible story told on the Chico State stage.” 

Tickets for the musical are priced at $20 adults, $18 seniors, and $8 students and youth, and are available to purchase at CSU, Chico’s University Box Office, 530-898-6333.

For those who need special seating accommodations, please call 530-898-6333. More information is available online at the School of the Arts website and Facebook page.

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Story by Shelby Casey, School of the Arts publicity assistant


Who is Lin-Manuel Miranda?

Lin-Manuel Miranda
Lin-Manuel Miranda (courtesy of linmanuel.com)

Only 40 years old, Lin-Manuel Miranda is the creator of two iconic Broadway musicals—Hamilton and In the Heights—and has already received more than a lifetime’s worth of awards and accolades.

Miranda’s success at such a young age has to do in part with his early exposure and love for musical theatre and music, especially hip-hop and pop music.

His parents introduced him to Broadway, taking him to see Les Misérables, Cats, and Phantom of the Opera. But his deepest exposure to Broadway was through the hundreds of Broadway cast albums his parents owned and listened to. His favorites to listen to were Jesus Christ Superstar and Man of La Mancha.

In contrast, his school bus driver provided his exposure to rap, teaching him lyrics by rap groups such as the Sugarhill Gang. Additionally, in the 1980s, his sister took him to see Beat Street, an early film about hip hop.

This diverse interest in music has been implemented in Miranda’s work through the utilization of both forms of music in his musicals. People in the Broadway industry have had a good response to Miranda’s writing and compositional style.

“Innovators are usually synthesizers–they synthesize everything they know and add their own personal talents, and out comes something new. What Lin is is a refreshing and healthy contemporary synthesis of everything he’s known before,” said John Kander, the composer who collaborated with Fred Ebb on works including Cabaret and Chicago.

“[Miranda’s] ability to work in both [Broadway and hip-hop] is inseparable from the fact that he loves both forms–he’s not being a tourist when he visits one or the other, but he’s deeply embedded in both of them,” said Oskar Eustis, artistic director of the Public Theatre where Hamilton had an Off-Broadway run.

Tickets for CSU, Chico’s production of In the Heights are priced at $20 adults, $18 seniors, and $8 students and youth, and are available to purchase at CSU, Chico’s University Box Office, 530-898-6333.

For those who need special seating accommodations, please call 530-898-6333. More information is available online at the School of the Arts website and Facebook page.

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Story by Shelby Casey, School of the Arts publicity assistant


About the Director

Matthew Teague Miller headshot

Matthew Teague Miller currently serves as producing artistic director of the Clinton Area Showboat Theatre, a professional equity summer theatre in Clinton, Iowa.  His favorite productions include the Iowa Premieres of Disney’s Newsies and The Bridges of Madison County, as well as Les Miserables, Green Day’s American Idiot, Reefer Madness, Damn Yankees and Recent Tragic Events. Professional directing credits include work at Clinton Area Showboat Theatre, Lincoln Theatre Napa Valley, Timber Lake Playhouse, Triad Stage and others. As an actor, Miller spent three years touring the country with the original Broadway production of Les Miserables, where he worked under Tony Award-winning director Trevor Nunn and Tony Award-nominated director Jason Moore and performed alongside Colm Wilkinson in his final performance as Jean Valjean. Miller received his MFA in directing from University of North Carolina, Greensboro and his BFA in musical theatre from Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. Miller is a member of Actor's Equity Association and on the Executive Council of Musical Theatre Education Alliance International.