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May 06, 2017

CREC Arts Academy Spring Musical “In the Heights” Infused with Hip Hop, Salsa and a Diverse, Talented Cast

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(Hartford, CT) When the curtains go up at this year’s spring musical at the CREC Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts, the audience will experience Lin-Manuel Miranda’s award-winning, “In the Heights,” through a diverse and talented cast, many of whom relate to the musical on multiple levels. Infused with Hip Hop and Latin music, “In the Heights” was chosen partly because the academy could satisfy its diverse casting needs. To keep the choreography ‘legitimate,’ the director, Brian Jennings, did something he’s never done before – he allowed a student, junior Dajmon Peele, to contribute to the choreography for “96,000,”one of the musical numbers in the show.

“A lot of collaboration went into the choreography. There are bits and pieces of ourselves in the show,” said Cassandra Pagliaruli, 17, a half day student from Berlin High School.

“I just love Lin-Manuel and his work, plus this show hits close to home and has had a big influence on my life,” said Aamahri Nicholson, 15, a half-day student from Windsor High School.

Director Brian Jennings said auditions to find the right voices for the scores and roles, and cast members with the ability to fill the style of choreography, among other skills, were held for about a week in December. Thirty students in grades 10 to 12 were selected and have been rehearsing daily since February. In addition, there are five students in the orchestra, and approximately 30 on the stage crew, which includes creating costumes, working with lights and building sets. Jennings, a Hartford-based actor, director and playwright, has been at the CREC Arts Academy for 20 years. He said holding rehearsals while the cast is on a school schedule can be challenging, but working with the students is worth it.

“There’s something about catching a young artist at an intersection in their lives when their paths are not yet determined and being able to impact their lives as they make their decisions. It’s remarkable and rewarding. It’s why so many of us stick around as long as we do,” said Jennings.

“In the Heights” is scheduled on April 28 and 29, and May 5 and 6 at 7:30 p.m. at the Theatre of the Performing Arts, 359 Washington Street in Hartford. Tickets are $15-25 for adults and $10-15 for students and seniors and are available online.

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