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Bob Jones’ musical, ‘In the Heights,’ promises top-notch entertainment

Genesis Phillips (Vanessa), far right, belts a tune during "In the Heights." Show dates are April 23-25 at 7 p.m. with a 2 p.m. show on April 25 in Zompa Auditorium at Bob Jones High School. (PHOTO/JFD PHOTOGRAPHY & DESIGN)
Genesis Phillips (Vanessa), far right, belts a tune during “In the Heights.” Show dates are April 23-25 at 7 p.m. with a 2 p.m. show on April 25 in Zompa Auditorium at Bob Jones High School. (PHOTO/JFD PHOTOGRAPHY & DESIGN)

MADISON – Salsa dancing, energized characters and a heartfelt message combine for “In the Heights,” Bob Jones Musical Theatre’s spring musical.

Artistic Director Mary B. Davis believes Madison residents will endorse this show, which isn’t a ‘classic’ musical. “In the Heights” won Tony Awards for 2008 “Best New Musical,” “Best Orchestration” and “Best Choreography.”

The musical is set in Washington Heights in northern Manhattan. Usnavi, portrayed by Chris Gunner, owns a bodega and dreams of his Dominican Republic homeland. Nina Rosario, played by Emily McDowell, returns to the Heights from college with a surprise.

Then, someone in Washington Heights wins the lottery. How will that windfall effect personalities and the neighborhood?

Nina reminds McDowell of her own friends — “driven, intelligent, talented, kind.”

The cast is exploring an unfamiliar culture “while acting, singing and dancing to upbeat and modernized music,” Gunner said. “Usnavi deals with problems I’ve yet to face; as an orphan, he has more troubles than I could even imagine.”

Other lead actors are Samuel Jackson (Benny), Genesis Phillips (Vanessa), Samantha Stratton (Abuela), James Mercier (Kevin Rosario), Basia Marotta (Camila Rosario), Erin Shockey (Daniela), Naomi Liriano (Carla), Guerin Tidwell (Sonny), Chance Novalis (Graffiti Pete) and Nathan Rodes (Piraguero).

Led by technical director Dwayne Craft, 15 ‘techies’ or technical crew take cues from student tech director Sierra Anderson.

Music directors are Randall Fields and Newt Johnson. Professional pit musicians will tackle difficult Latin rhythms. Kristin Alley is student director.

The cast and Davis learned to salsa with Carlos Colon and Gabriela Gonzalez at Madison Ballroom. Stephanie Friend with Heidi Knight School of Dance coached the funkier feel of hip-hop scenes.

The cast learns “home is where your heart is, teaching them that using grit and perseverance can yield a much bigger payout than any lottery,” Davis said.

Tickets for adults are $12. Students and senior citizens (60 years and older) pay $10.

Show dates are April 23-25 at 7 p.m. with a 2 p.m. show on April 25. Tickets will be sold at the Zompa Auditorium box office or showtix4u.com.

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