Rehearsals began this week at Playhouse on Park in West Hartford for the 2008 Tony Award winning musical “In the Heights,” one of few Broadway shows to feature predominantly Latino characters. After a nearly year-long casting process, which attracted actors from across the country, several performers with Connecticut connections were chosen to be part of the company, including musical theater actress and classically trained soprano Sandra Marante of Vernon, who is featured in a lead role as Daniela.
“In the Heights” is set over a three-day period in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, where a young storeowner watches the joys and heartbreaks of his tight-knit community as they pass through his bodega. Previews begin on June 13, and the show will run through July 29.
Marante, who is Cuban-American, said that “In the Heights” was one of the first Broadway shows she saw in New York City. “I cried at the end because I felt like I just saw my family and heritage being portrayed so beautifully onstage. I promised myself as a young teenager that one day, I would be a part of this cast. Playhouse on Park is letting this dream of my mine come true,” she says.
The Miami native relocated to Connecticut when her now-husband matched for the University of Connecticut’s primary sports care medicine fellowship. “I already had my bachelors and masters in music, but while learning more about UCONN and getting ready to move here, I saw they had a post graduate Performer’s Certificate in Opera. A Performer’s Certificate lets you work on your vocal craft with weekly voice lessons and coachings as well as performing in two operas. I auditioned and was accepted right away, so my husband and I got to go to school together! It was a wonderful opportunity,” says Marante.
Playhouse on Park Artistic Director Sean Harris explains that in many cases, theaters encourage performers of all ethnicities and color to audition, but that it doesn’t necessarily mean that a show will be cast that way. While he did not ask specifically about auditioning artists’ ethnic backgrounds, he did ask that each cast member have a strong handle on Spanish. “I did not want to be using rehearsal time to do language practice,” said Harris. He is leading by example and has burnished his Spanish language skills with an instructor at The Spence School in Manhattan, the all-girls prep school where he is a teacher.
Harris sees the show as a celebration the Latin community. “I want the show to transcend the walls of the theater and go into the community,” he explains. “We want to immerse the audience and everything we do. This is not going to be a passive theater experience. We are going to create an event. It’s going to be such an important celebration at a time when people are so full of anger.”
Marante praises Harris and choreographer Darlene Zoller for their casting choices. “This cast is also so talented! Anyone watching in the audience could imagine being transported to Washington Heights, because of the Latino authenticity of our ensemble. It feels like we are a family after the first night of rehearsal and I am so excited to see the beautiful work that will come out of this amazing group!”
After “In the Heights,” Marante will be part of part of the ensemble for “Hatuey – Memory of Fire,” a new Cuban Opera premiering this fall at Peak Performances in Montclair, NJ.
To read more about Sandra Marante, visit her website at SandraMaranteSoprano.com.
Tickets for “In the Heights” are available at: http://playhouseonpark.org/web2/Season9_20172018/mainstage_InTheHeights.html
Tickets for “In the Heights” are available at http://playhouseonpark.org/web2/Season9_20172018/mainstage_InTheHeights.html