The new year is fast approaching which means one thing for the Eastwood theater: the opening night for their musical "In the Heights."
Preparations for the musical have been set in action since early this year. After months of anticipation, the cast list was revealed in November. Abel Jaquez is the male lead Usnavi and his love interest, Vanessa, is portrayed by Denise Ortiz. Ryan Ortegon and Nichole Hardgrove, who portray Benny and Nina, drive the story with their forbidden romance.
"Ever since I first heard we were doing this show, I instantly connected with Benny. "He's such a relatable character." says senior Ryan Ortegon. Nichole Hardgrove, who is no stranger to portraying lead characters, feels honored to play such an amazing character for my last show. "Every time I listen to the song 'Breathe,' I just put myself in Nina's shoes and it makes me realize that could be me next year."
Fresh off her leading role in "Musical Comedy Murders," Denise Ortiz prepares herself for the role of a lifetime: the seductive Vanessa who wants to leave her home in Washington Heights for a life in downtown New York. "I feel like that was the role I was born to play. Vanessa is everything I am. I want to leave this city to move on to bigger and better things and that's essentially what Vanessa wants to." Making his triumphant return as Usnavi, Abel Jaquez has been preparing for this role ever since the Theater Showcase early on in the year. "The title song sets the tone for the story and I rap a lot which is something I already do. I'm so excited to showcase my talent for the entire student body and my family to witness."
The four leads are also seniors, which means this is the last time they will be performing together on the theater stage. Ortegon says that this show is "perfect for our send-off. It's the perfect story about community and loving your home and although a lot of us are leaving, we'll always be a family. This could not have been a better show for us."
While the leads are practicing their vocals in the main stage, Alejandra Gonzales and the chorus are hard at work creating intricate Latin-style choreography. Gonzales, a senior who has choreographed shows for the last three years, hopes to "showcase the talent that this group has. Doing basic "Broadway" type choreography isn't as amazing as the fast paced styles like salsa and cumbia. It'll take a long time to get it all together because each song is like five minutes long but the finishing product is a guaranteed gem."
Gonzales and her crew were seen choreographing the show's iconic number "96,000" while on the stage Denise Ortiz was belting out her showstopping "It Won't Be Long Now."
The journey to opening night will be a rocky one: creating sets, creating choreography, memorizing lines and musical numbers, this amazing ensemble will undoubtedly shine as bright as they have the last four years of their careers. "In the Heights" will open its curtains for all to see January 29th, 2015.