Francisco Fiori admits he’s always enjoyed being the center of attention. So he found center stage quite exciting and a perfect fit – kind of.
“I didn’t have a definite and sudden interest or start in drama and performing,” said the Community High School junior. “I have always wanted to be the center of attention since I was very young, so that might have contributed to my love for performing for my friends and family.”
He also loved watching musicals and shows with his family.
“I always thought, ‘that could be me,’” he says. “My reasons for doing theater have definitely evolved over the years, but it stemmed from a love of singing, being a cheese, and people loving the result of what I loved to do. Theater is fun.”
Fiori will have plenty of fun this weekend as one of the stars in the Pioneer Theatre Guild’s presentation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning debut musical, “In the Heights.” The show begins on Friday, April 21 with additional shows on April 22, 28, 29 and 30 in Schreiber Auditorium.
Fiori, a junior at PHS, says he finds musical theater interesting because it combines so many elements, including acting and singing.
“At the root of it, theater is fundamentally acting, so I always consider myself an actor, because even if I’m singing my heart out, it’s all pointless if I’m not being true and authentic to my character,” he says. “Don’t get me wrong though, singing is a big part of it, and often elevates the acting exponentially.”
He will be doing both singing and acting as Kevin Rosario in “In the Heights.”
“He is really the most complicated character I’ve ever played,” says Fiori. “He immigrated from Puerto Rico 27 years ago to Washington Heights where he started his own taxi service. He’s really struggling financially with his daughter going to Stanford, and this causes him to make a lot of hard decisions throughout the musical.
“He could be seen as the ‘villain,’ but I really think he’s not a bad character at all; he just has a need to help his family and almost be a superhero for them. This originates from his childhood relationship with his father, which was not a positive aspect in his life.”
Fiori has done a myriad of shows with Pioneer Theatre Guild including “Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “Rock of Ages,” and “High School Musical.” Before his high school years he appeared in “The Sound of Music” and “Richard III.”
He says “theater is a win/win for everybody involved.”
“Audiences love the escape of the theater to a story that they can or can’t relate to,” says Francisco, the son of Carlos Fiori and Paula Oliva. “Writers have the opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas through a very entertaining medium that almost forces us to listen, because it’s a lot harder to leave a theater than putting down a book. And as far as being an actor, it is fun but it also pushes you simultaneously and forces you to think: ‘How would my character say this line? Are my movements natural? How can I convince the audience as much as possible and connect with them without directly talking to them?’
“You also discover a lot about people and yourself through theater. It’s fun to peel back the layers.”
Fiori has enjoyed peeling back the layers of “In the Heights.” He calls it one of his top three musicals.
“The score is filled to the brim with passion, emotion, humor, and humanity,” he says. “The soundtrack makes me say that every single song is my favorite when I’m listening to it. There also is not a huge overarching plotline, which provides opportunity to peer into a lot of different people’s lives, struggles, and victories. Not to mention the amazing representation for the Latin community, including immigrants and their posterity. The musical makes me laugh and cry more than any other. It’s so much fun to perform because it’s a story that everybody loves and it is super challenging which keeps us on our toes.”
Fiori wants to continue to “grow, learn and improve” on the stage.
“Theater forces us to work and work so we can improve, which I love and hate at the same time,” he says. “I just hope I still love to do this in the future and continue working with it.”
“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.
MAIN PHOTO: Photo by Myra Klarman