In the Heights

The cast of "In the Heights" strikes a pose at the end of the musical's opening number on Thursday night, their opening night, at Schwab auditorium.

State College got a taste of the Heights after Schwab Auditorium was transformed into New York City.

The Penn State Thespians opened their production of “In the Heights ” last night, a story following a close-knit neighborhood and the family it houses.

The stage was transformed to look like the neighborhood in Washington Heights, with two brick buildings that held three stores in each.

There was Rosario’s, the car and limousine shop owned by Kevin Rosario and his wife Camila , two parents struggling to deal with their daughter’s secret while paying the rent.

Across the stage was the hair salon owned by the gossip queen, Daniella , and her workers Carla and Vanessa .

And there was the grocery mart kept together by Usnavi and his cousin Sonny .

Usnavi, played by William Sinz , was a lead character who was trying to keep care of his abuela, the grandmother of the neighborhood, win the heart of Vanessa, played by Natalie Vero , and win the lottery to go back to his home in the Dominican Republic.

Sinz rapped almost every line, and he never missed a beat. His character was the heart and soul of the neighborhood. especially after he finds his abuela in trouble.

The whole cast did a fantastic job of getting into character and really digging into the roots of the Heights.

Daniella, played by Bailey Wolf , was a sassy hair stylist who knew everything about everyone in the neighborhood, and she wasn’t afraid to spill the gossip. In her song “Carnaval del Barrio ,” she belted her lyrics, getting the ensemble on its feet and in a better mood after a blackout left everyone hot and bummed.

Every time the ensemble made its way onto the stage, the audience could guarantee a great dance number was about to happen.

Without any hesitation of jumping into each other’s arms, it was clear the ensemble was well rehearsed and knew its dance moves.

They got to show everything off in the club scene where most of the cast gathered on stage to bust out a few dance moves before the major blackout that kicked them out of the club.

Schwab was not only filled with students last night, but a few guest stars also made appearances.

James Franklin , Penn State’s new head football coach, sat in the first row to enjoy the first half of the play. He took a few selfies with students before the curtain opened.

Along with the famous coach was Mike the Mailman, who performed with the cast on stage.

Although his part was small, Mike Herr said he was thrilled to be performing with the Thespians.

“These kids are so nice — they have so much energy and they are such a family,” Herr said. “They are so encouraging to me, and I am so honored to be working with the Thespians.”

He played Mr. Softee, the ice cream man that kept Piragua Guy out of customers. The two times Herr stepped on and off stage, he got a loud response from the crowd.

“In the Heights” was an exciting play that includes problems most college students can relate to, and the cast does a great job of making the story come to life.

The show will be playing again tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets and information are available on the Thespian’s website, http://psuthespians.com/.

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Kasey Feather can be reached at kmf5497@psu.edu or (814) 865-1828. Follow her on Twitter at @feather_kasey.