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Hip-Hop Musical Draws Diverse Cast of Students - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Hip-Hop Musical Draws Diverse Cast of Students

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The show is bringing together a vibrant and diverse cast. The show is bringing together a vibrant and diverse cast.

This year, Monticello High School students are performing a Latino/rap/hip-hop musical called "In the Heights."

They're using modern music to tell a story about coming to America from an immigrant's perspective. It's the debut of this show in the commonwealth, and the school's drama teacher says it's drawing a nontraditional cast.

"As a drama teacher, my goal is to attract as many types of students as possible because I believe that art, like real life, is much more interesting when you have diversity and multiculturalism," said Madeline Michel.

She said that out of a cast of about 50, nearly half are new to drama.

"In order to do that I had to choose a vehicle that would interest young people of all types and that was not going to be 'My Fair Lady' or 'Guys and Dolls'," she said.

Tenth grade student Gabriela David was shy before doing this play.

"I was really nervous on stage," said David. Then she had a scene where she had to be on stage by herself. "When I did that I realized that it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. So I lost my shyness on stage," she said.

Now, David has a new confidence to dance in public, like she's always done at home.

"When you're on stage, something else happens," she said. "It's a way to speak. It's not only dancing but it's a way to communicate with other people."

Tenth grade student Alex Espinosa was excited about the music in this production.

"I like anything hip-hop, Hispanic, Bachata, pop, pretty much anything I can dance to," he said.

"We got rappers involved. I mean, when have you ever heard of a rap musical? But this is a rap musical. It's rap. It's hip-hop. It's salsa," Michel said.

The play is about a striving, but vibrant burrough in New York.

"It's about immigrants from all over, but mostly from Latin America who come to Washington Heights and they struggle, and they work really hard, and they have two and three jobs and small businesses and they're trying to find where their home is," Michel said.

And the show is bringing together a vibrant cast. Espinosa said the production is bringing students from different groups together.

"It's been a great experience being with all these people, people that I never even thought I'd talk to," said Espinosa.

"There's a real family. You don't have to pretend to be friends because you really are in real life," David said.

Michel said she is proud of the students she casted.

"This is the hallmark of what we do at Monticello. We try to represent everyone and get kids involved in theater that may have never done that and that's what we did this year," she said.

Monticello High School's production of "In the Heights" is May 17-19. The Friday night dress rehearsal is a benefit show to support the school's drama program.

The cast is also doing a benefit show for the Latino organization Cresciendo Juntos on Saturday May 18 at 2 p.m. Click here for ticket information.

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