Broadway Star Skypes with MHS Spring Musical Cast and Crew - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Broadway Star Skypes with MHS Spring Musical Cast and Crew

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Broadway star Karen Olivo talks to Monticello High School cast and crew of "In the Heights" Broadway star Karen Olivo talks to Monticello High School cast and crew of "In the Heights"

Monday, a Broadway star paid a special visit via Skype to students involved in Monticello High School's spring musical "In the Heights."

Karen Olivo played the lead role of Vanessa in the original Broadway production. She answered students' questions about the show, her role, and the challenges of performing on stage.

"It is such a huge opportunity and wonderful experience to be able to get closer to the heart of what this show means and to really expand our horizons and show others what's going on," said Braelyn Schenk, MHS cast member who will also play the role of Vanessa.

Olivo told the students she liked their promos for the show because they encompassed the meaning of "In the Heights."

The show is about people from different backgrounds who come together in one neighborhood.

Albemarle County Public Schools
Press Release

(ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Virginia) – There is something fundamentally different about Monticello High School's spring musical this year. It extends beyond the music and dancing, as interesting, unusual and uplifting as those numbers are. It is not the moving and in-depth examination of family and home, which is at the core of so many extraordinary films and live theater productions. No, this has to do with the people on stage, not what they are doing, but who they are.

This year, Monticello's drama director, Madeline Michel, took on a mission to expand her student outreach, looking for undiscovered prospects with talent and potential. She persuaded, cajoled and talked not only with students, but teachers and families to convince the school's Hispanic community to join a program relatively unknown to them. Lauren Purvis, an ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) teacher at Monticello, guidance counselor Paul Jones, musical director Lynn Nichols, and the school division's ESOL coordinator Rusty Carlock, joined the effort.

"In previous years, we might have had a few Latino students show an interest in drama, but often, the number of those students was zero. These wonderfully gifted young men and women were not fully engaged in our school community, and our theater productions were missing out on what they could contribute," said Ms. Michel.

The challenge was finding a compelling opportunity that would attract the nontraditional music theater student. It also had to be a production that could accommodate the broad range of acting, singing and dancing skills at Monticello High School.

Ms. Michel found exactly the right production, In the Heights, a Broadway show that won the coveted Tony Award for Best Musical in 2008. It's a story about three days in the life of a New York City Dominican-American neighborhood with a lively musical score, energetic dance numbers, and a wry sense of humor sure to lift the audience out of their seats.

Ms. Purvis, the ESOL teacher, is a trained dancer, adept in bachata and salsa, and she helped students develop their own choreography for the play.

"There is vibrancy to this show that will resonate with the audience regardless of their life experiences," said Ms. Michel. "I am so proud of these kids who have come together through newly-formed relationships to perform so authentically and joyfully on stage," she added.

Of the 50 students on stage, about 25 have never been in a live theater production, and many of the actors and actresses are not native English speakers. In addition to students from Monticello, the production includes students from other schools, including a young Albemarle High School student who is from the Dominican Republic and is a professional break dancer in his native country. His mom heard about the play and asked if her son could participate. He relies upon a bus and his mom to travel back-and-forth every day to rehearsals.

"The story of this young man is typical of the beauty of this production," said Ms. Michel. "It has brought young people together who would not otherwise have known or related to one another, and it has created greater insight and appreciation into the rich and varied cultures represented in Albemarle County," she said.

In the Heights, with its irresistible combination of hip-hop, rap and salsa,previews at Monticello High School on Thursday evening, May 16, at 7:30. Admission is by donation to the school's drama department. The show formally opens on Friday, May 17, at 8 p.m. It has performances on Saturday, May 18, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., and concludes its run on Sunday, May 19, with a 4 p.m. matinee. The Saturday matinee performance is a benefit for Creciendo Juntos, a Latino community service organization.

Tickets in advance are $7 for students and $12 for adults. At the door, student tickets are $10 and $15 for adults. Tickets are available at Monticello High School, by phone at 434-249-2491, and on line at http://www2.k12albemarle.org/school/mohs/Pages/default.aspx.

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