It’s a story of home.
The mostly immigrant families of Washington Heights, New York struggle with their working class life and their desire to find a place of happiness in “In the Heights,” the five-time Tony award-winning play and latest Starting Arts’ Dream Team production.
Usnavi runs a corner bodega, but wishes to return to his homeland. The Rosarios moved from Puerto Rico to give their daughter, Nina, a better life and struggle with her new romance with Benny – the only non-Latino in the neighborhood. Vanessa wants to get out of the barrio and make a life for herself somewhere else, and Sonny seems to be the only person who values the life he has and where he lives. However, as everyone tries to find where they fit in, Abuela Claudia becomes the glue holding the group together – through the ups and downs, she is the only constant. But, when Abuela Claudia dies, and characters begin to make plans for their future, the Heights show them that home is truly where the heart is. The Heights was Abuela Claudia’s home, and the love of her community keeps everyone close – they find their home.
The Dream Team only had 14 weeks with minimal practices to prepare for “In the Heights.” It was also a physical stretch on the performers. “Last year we challenged this group with the task of Les Misérables, and they certainly rose to the occasion, said Dream Team Program and Music Director Amy Baker. “This year we wanted to push their limits and develop their contemporary pop stylings both vocally and in their dancing, and they are rising to this challenge as well.” Many of the performers were actors and singers, but most had no formal dance training. “In the Heights” challenged them with hip hop and salsa moves as well as some partner work, which included lifts.
What the group produced was a practically flawless performance with fairly complicated dance moves and fantastic vocals. Within the “Diga Me” cast, Jordan Plutzer (Usnavi) was a joy to watch as the leading male, and the vocals of female performers Eva Zakula (Vanessa), Micaela Laber (Abuela Claudia), and Kelly Rosales (Nina) were pitch perfect. Despite the handful of standouts, the entire cast is to be commended as they knocked this particular performance out of the park.
Starting Arts is a non-profit arts organization promoting and preserving arts education in the Bay Area. In addition to providing during-and-after school programs, the organization has developed Dream Team and Dream Team II – tryout and age-based performing arts groups for local students. The Dream Team is holding mid-season auditions on January 27 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. for eighth to 12th grade students at Starting Arts Studios, 3340 Montgomery Drive in Santa Clara. Those interested must register at www.startingarts.com/enrollment and prepare a one-minute monologue and 16-32 bars (30-60 seconds) of a song. Dream Team II will perform Fiddler on the Roof February 27 – March 1. Tickets are on sale at www.seatyourself.biz/startingarts.
Additionally, Starting Arts is holding a fundraiser on February 16 entitled “Bright Lights, Big Dreams.” The Bay Area youth talent search will have 20 finalists competing for over $8,000 in cash prices. The event also serves as a fundraiser for arts education. Auditions are currently in progress. Performance videos can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Auditions will also be held January 26 at Starting Arts studios. For more information visit www.startingarts.com/blbd.