MHS spring musical reaches new heights

Megan Burns, Print Editor-In-Chief

  After being promoted all year, MHS’ 2023 spring musical “In the Heights” is finally in production– and it’s making Mundelein Theatre history.

  “‘In the Heights’ takes place in a primarily Hispanic neighborhood in New York,” Jonathan Meier, director of theatre said. “Our demographics at MHS fit the show quite well. Our production will be the largest and most diverse cast in the history of Mundelein Theatre.”

  The musical, by Lin Manuel Miranda, is set in the neighborhood of Washington Heights in New York City. 

  “It’s a community on the brink of change, full of hopes, dreams and pressures, where the biggest struggle can be deciding which traditions you take with you, and which ones you leave behind,” Meier said.

  One unique aspect of the show (compared to previous years) is the large amount of people participating that are new to theatre.

  “⅔ of the cast have never been in a musical at MHS, and ⅓ of the cast has not been in any shows at MHS,” Meier said. “Having that many inexperienced people will be a challenge, but it is a great challenge to have. Our rehearsal process has included more teaching than usual.”

  It’s also been difficult convincing non-Latin culture students participating that they aren’t being disrespectful.

  “In acting sometimes you might play a role that does not reflect who you are,” Human Resources Executive Administrative Assistant Joanna Rodriguez said. “Some of the student concerns were that they did not want anyone to feel like they might be disrespecting the Latin culture by trying to participate in a role that might not reflect who they are.”

  Rodriguez stated that they have been able to reassure the students that if they “honor and respect the culture, it is okay to submerge [themselves] in it and embrace it with pride and respect.”

  “I am very excited that it reflects a lot of our student population and [we get] to see students that are not in theatre be a part of [the musical,]” Rodriguez said. “I am sure many students will be able to relate to the story and will find it inspiring.”

  The style of music has also been a challenge for the cast when it comes to learning their parts.

  “The music and the dances, [as fun and complex as they are,] are not as familiar to our cast as classical or mainstream pieces that you would see in other musicals,” Hector Gonzalez, associate director said. “Also, as a bilingual work, it presents a challenge for actors whose first language isn’t Spanish. Capturing the Caribbean essence can be tricky as well.”

  Yet, with this musical, many people are proud to have their heritages seen and displayed.

  “As a proud Puerto Rican, seeing my flag and my culture represented on our stage will be unforgettable,” Gonzalez said. “It’s something I never expected to see and it’s going to fill me up with pride.”