Walnut Street Theatre Opens 205th Season with IN THE HEIGHTS, 9/3
Walnut Street Theatre opens its landmark 205th season with the groundbreaking 21st century musical IN THE HEIGHTS. Directed by Bruce Lumpkin, with choreography by Michelle Gaudette, this exhilarating musical about chasing your dreams and finding your true home begins previews on September 3rd, opens on September 11th and runsthrough October 20th on the WST Mainstage.
IN THE HEIGHTS tells the universal story of a vibrant community in New York's Washington Heights neighborhood - a place where the coffee from the corner coffee shop is light and sweet, the windows are always open and the breeze carries the rhythm of three generations of music. It's a community on the brink of change, full of hopes and dreams where the biggest struggles can be deciding which traditions you take with you, and which ones you leave behind. With a gripping story and incredible music and dance, IN THE HEIGHTS is the next chapter in the classic American story.
IN THE HEIGHTS was conceived by Lin-Manuel Miranda in 1999 while in his sophomore year at Wesleyan University, where the show had its world premiere. After revisions it was presented at the 2005 National Music Theatre Conference in Connecticut. In 2007, IN THE HEIGHTS had its Off-Broadway premiere, where it received nine nominations for Drama Desk Awards, winning two. Its Broadway premiere came in 2008 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre where it ran for 1,184 performances. The show was recognized with four Tony Awards from its 13 nominations, a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and won a Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album. It was critically acclaimed, with Ben Brantley of The New York Times noting IN THE HEIGHTS as "an exuberant animated shrine to the importance of family ties and being faithful to where you come from."
The 2012 Pulitzer Prize winner, and Philadelphia local, Quiara Alegría Hudes wrote the book for IN THE HEIGHTS. This is not the first time Hudes' work has been produced by the Walnut. In 2010 Elliot, A Soldier's Fugue, a Pulitzer Prize finalist and the first in a trilogy of plays, was produced in the Walnut's Independence Studio on 3. It was the second play in this trilogy, Water by the Spoonful, which received the 2012 Pulitzer Prize. The third play will be produced later this year in Chicago.
Hudes has been recognized with honors including the United States Artists Fontanals Fellowship, the Joyce Fellowship at the Goodman Theatre, the Aetna New Voices Fellowship at Hartford Stage, the Roe Green Award at the Cleveland Playhouse, fellowships at Sundance Theater Institute and the O'Neill Theater Center, a residency at New Dramatists and a Resolution from The City of Philadelphia in 2011. A graduate of Philadelphia's Central High School, she was recently inducted into their Hall of Fame which makes her the first Latina and one of the first two women to receive this honor since the school's founding in 1836.
Bruce Lumpkin returns to the Walnut to direct. He has directed numerous Mainstage and Studio 3 productions, including last season's Grease and the highly acclaimed Miss Saigon, Fiddler on the Roof, Man of La Mancha, Cabaret, Evita, Grand Hotel, La Vie En Bleu, and Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel. Choreographer Michelle Gaudette will light up the stage with hip, sultry dances complimented by beats provided by Musical Director Douglass G. Lutz. Gaudette has previously choreographed at the Walnut for productions including Grease, Miss Saigon, Fiddler on the Roof, State Fair, Man of La Mancha, Carousel and Evita. Musical Director Douglass G. Lutz has guided numerous Mainstage musicals for the past thirteen seasons, most recently Grease, The Music Man, Miss Saigon, Fiddler on the Roof, The King and I and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
Paving the streets of Washington Heights is Set Designer Anna Louizos. Louizos, whose work has earned her three Tony Award nominations, designed the set for the Broadway production, with additional Broadway credits including The Mystery of Edwin Drood, High Fidelity, Avenue Q and Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella. She is joined by a spectacular team of designers including Lighting Designer Paul Black (The Music Man, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The 39 Steps) and the award-winning Costume Designer Colleen Grady (Grease, Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story, Fiddler on the Roof). Rounding up the creative team is Sound Designer, and Walnut new-comer, Ed Chapman.
This tightknit community is full of fresh faces to the Walnut with Perry Young of the National Tour of IN THE HEIGHTSleading the way as Usnavi. Matthew J. Harris will play his younger cousin Sonny and Rayanne Gonzales plays Abuela Claudia, the woman responsible for their upbringing. Usnavi's love interest Vanessa will be played by Gizel Jimenez. Nina will be played by Julia Hunter, with her parents Kevin and Camila played by Danny Bolero and Kimberly S. Fairbanks, respectively. Benny, Usnavi's friend, will be played by Rhett George, Daniela by Donnie Hammond and Carla by Maria Konstantinidis. Ceasar F. Barajas will play Graffiti Pete, and Carlos Lopez will play Piragua Guy.
The residents of Washington Heights are ensemble members Sandy Alvarez, Ceasar F. Barajas, Breanna Bartley, Melanie Cotton, Dean Andre De Luna, Lisa Finegold, Joshua Keith, Carlos Lopez, Gabriella Sorrentino and Michael Anthony Sylvester.
IN THE HEIGHTS runs at the Walnut September 3 through October 20. PNC Arts Alive is the Walnut's Community Partner for IN THE HEIGHTS. Media Sponsor is NBC 10. For tickets and information, call 215-574-3550 or 800-982-2787. Tickets are also available online 24/7 by visiting www.WalnutStreetTheatre.org or Ticketmaster.
PNC Arts Alive
The PNC Arts Alive grant will allow the Walnut to offer two community performances. The first is an additional evening performance for adult members of the Latino community, with tickets distributed through community organizations. The second performance is a special student-matinee for high-schools in communities with dense Latino populations. Schools will be provided with custom educational guides for teachers to help prepare their students prior to the show. Each performance will feature a post-show discussion with members of the cast and creative team. With the support of PNC Arts Alive, the Walnut will offer 2,000 fully-subsidized tickets to the Greater Philadelphia Latino community.
PNC Arts Alive is a five-year, $5 million initiative of the PNC Foundation, which receives its principal funding from The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. The goal of PNC Arts Alive is to help area residents gain access to the arts and to help arts organizations expand and engage audiences. For more information on PNC Arts Alive and the grant recipients visitwww.PNCARTSALIVE.com.