On Stage: Pioneer students celebrate salsa, hip-hop and immigrant dreams


Students in Pioneer High School’s latest musical don’t need to go to a social studies class to learn about immigration and the American Dream. Their spring musical, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights,” explores the lives and dreams of several small business owners in the predominantly Latin-American neighborhood of Washington Heights in New York City.

Director Christopher Campbell (below), a senior University of Michigan Musical Theatre student, isn’t just passionate about the show, he performed in it last summer at the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera with members of the original Broadway cast.

“This show overflows with humanity,” Campbell says. “As you watch, you can’t help but identify with the characters and I think we’re all learning each rehearsal.”

The show’s unique blend of hip-hop and salsa has also attracted a number of students who have never performed in musicals before. Shane Collins, a high school junior playing the lead role of Usnavi de la Vega, says this show has changed his life.

READ ABOUT MIA GALBRAITH: https://weloveannarbor.com/2018/04/16/profile-pioneers-mia-galbraith-owes-her-strength-to-the-stage/

“This is a different experience from what I’ve done before,” Collins says. “I’m glad there’s rap in the show because it opens up opportunities for people like me who would never think to do a musical.”

Francisco Fiori, Pioneer Theatre Guild student president, says the choreography and music are as challenging as anything he’s ever done before.

“But it’s twice as rewarding because it’s a story I can connect to,” Fiori says. “Both my parents are immigrants and this show is a celebration of what it means to be proud of your heritage and where you come from.”

To help the community join in the celebration, the Pioneer Theatre Guild Booster Club is hosting the “In the Heights Opening Night Gala”, featuring local salsa band Los Gatos and food trucks serving Latin-American food.

Pioneer Theatre Guild Stage Managers (from left) Louise Scoville, Isabella Crow, and Carli Starman take notes at rehearsal for “In the Heights.” Photo by M. Ruth Morris

“It’s going to be a celebration of the many cultures of Washington Heights,” says co-producer, Alex Leydenfrost. “And it also helps us raise scholarship money for students who wouldn’t otherwise be able to participate.”

The gala is opening night, Saturday, April 21 at 6 p.m. (90 minutes prior to the show).

“In the Heights”
What: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning debut musical, “In the Heights”
When: Saturday, April 21; Sunday, April 22 (matinee, 2 p.m.); Friday, April 28; Saturday, April 29: Sunday, April 30 (matinee, 2 p.m.).
Who: Presented by Pioneer HS Theatre Guild
Where: Schreiber Auditorium, PHS
Tickets: $15 (Adults), $10 (Students, 65+ Seniors), or $50/$100 for the Opening Night Gala. Reserved tickets are available at www.a2tix.com and also at the door.

The crew

Director/Choreographer: Christopher Campbell
Music Director: R. Mackenzie Lewis
Assistant Director: Noah Metzler
Assistant Choreographer: Maya Alwan
Assistant Music Director: Garrett Forrestal
Producers:  Quinn Strassel and Alex Leydenfrost
Technical Director: Mysti Plummer

MAIN PHOTO: Co-producer Quinn Strassel talks publicity strategy with Pioneer freshman and member of the lights crew Adam Guerriero. Photo by M. Ruth Morris.


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