Cirillo Theatre’s 'In the Heights' oozes heart, cast says

By Calla Vassilopoulos - Staff Writer
Windsor - posted Thu., Jul. 25, 2013
Assistant musical director Justin Brown rehearses a piano piece for the Cirillo Theatre senior divison's 'In the Heights.' Photos by Calla Vassilopoulos.
Assistant musical director Justin Brown rehearses a piano piece for the Cirillo Theatre senior divison's 'In the Heights.' Photos by Calla Vassilopoulos.

It's crunch time for the members of the Cirillo Summer Theatre senior division as they approach their 45th anniversary performance, “In the Heights.” The musical takes place in Washington Heights, which is in the northern part of Manhattan, a predominately Dominican-American community, on the border of Harlem, Inwood and the Hudson and Harlem rivers.

“It's this huge amount of feeling of togetherness and community,” said Christian Torres, the actor playing Usnavi. Torres described the show as having a lot of heart, which “oozed” from every aspect of the show, from the music to the characters and their relationships with one another. “It's a brilliant experience, especially since it's of the Hispanic culture, and that’s where I come from, so I feel right at home, literally,” said Torres. 

The community is struggling to find a balance between preserving its Hispanic roots and moving forward, according to Ty McCombe, the actor playing featured character Kevin Rosario. Though he “loves” playing Rosario, it is a challenge for him, because of the cultural and age differences. McCombe is a recent college graduate who is of European descent, and Rosario is a Puerto Rican business owner. One aspect McCombe enjoys about his character is he relates to Rosario's personal struggles. “I can easily pull from what's happening now [in my life] and be able to use emotional connections and transference of that into my character,” said McCombe.

Torres' character is in his mid 20s and runs a bodega, which his parents owned before they passed. Usnavi is a kind-hearted young man who has difficulty with social interactions, especially when it comes to women, according to Torres. The character wants to help his friends move forward with their lives, but at the same time he also wants to start a new life. He thinks about moving to the Dominican Republic, but fears leaving New York, a place familiar and comfortable to him, according to Torres.

The performance includes a variety of dance numbers including hip-hop and traditional Spanish dances choreographed by Kristyn Fontanella. There are also complex Latin rhythms, to which vocalists sing while instrumentalists accompany, according to artistic director Susan Vinick. Conducting the score is musical director Carlos Silva. The show includes long-time Cirillo members as well as newcomers, who either enjoy theater as a hobby or as a career path, McCombe said. The cast itself is made up of teenagers and young adults ages 15 through 27.

“The work that these young people do is phenomenal,” said Vinick. “They are very talented people.” Vinick has been involved with the Cirillo Theatre as an actress and director for a total of 21 years, with a 20-year gap when she participated in other theater experiences.

Performances will be held at the L.P. Wilson Community Center on Aug. 2, 3, 8, 9 and 10 at 7:30 p.m. A matinee is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Aug. 4. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $12 for youth under 18 and senior citizens ages 65 and older. Tickets may be purchased from any cast member or at the door. Doors will open 30 minutes prior to the performance. For additional information, call 860-643–6446.


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