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Curtain Rises: Lehigh, Zoellner join online parade

As with other arts venues, Lehigh University and its Zoellner Arts Center are turning to the internet to deliver theater and other performances for the upcoming semester because of the continuing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Lehigh’s Mustard & Cheese Drama Society is presenting “In the Heights,” 7 p.m. Feb. 26 - March 5 on its YouTube channel.

“In the Heights “ is a musical written by Lin-Manuel Miranda (“Hamilton”) about the residents of a Dominican-American neighborhood of Washington Heights in New York City.

The musical’s book, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Quiara Alegria Hudes, follows the residents over three days in the close-knit community. They try to figure out if they should stay where they are, return to their homeland or move on.

“In the Heights” opened on Broadway in 2008 and received a Tony Award for best musical. Miranda also won for best score and choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler and musical director Alex Lacamoire won for their Latin- and hip-hop-inflected choreography and orchestrations.

At the center of the show is Usnavi, a bodega owner who looks after the neighborhood matriarch, Abuela Claudia, and is smitten with Vanessa, who works at a beauty salon.

Neighbors Camila and Kevin Rosario get a visit from their daughter Nina, who is struggling after her first year at college. They become upset when they discover her relationship with Benny, who works for their taxi service but isn’t Latino.

The all-student run production is directed by Ivery Linett Marquez.

The cast is: Juan Aleman (Usnavi), Brendan Rego (Benny), Justin Velez (Sonny), Jess Flores (Nina Rosario), Frances Colon (Camilia Rosario), Mercy Mirembe (Vanessa), Michael Stevanovich (Kevin Rosario), Arianna Pineiro (Abuelo), Dabney Brice (Daniella), Brianna Dominguez (Carla), Giovanni Vargas (Pirigua Guy), Elhadj Diallo (Grafitti Pete), and Annie Norris and Gabe Masso (ensemble).

After the opening night performance, there will be a talk-back with the cast on YouTube.

To view the show, you must provide your email to receive the link.

Tickets: www.instagram.com/intheheights_lu/

Zoellner Arts Center’s “On Stage At Home” guest artist series features six performances recorded exclusively for Zoellner Arts Center for online release for the spring 2021 semester. The programs are free, but donations are accepted.

The season began Feb. 17 with a performance available for viewing through March 5 by contemporary dance troupe Sankofa Danzafro.

Sankofa Danzafro is an Afro-Colombian dance company, which performs their work, “The City of Others.”

Artistic director and choreographer Rafael Palacios created the work by drawing from the troupe’s performers’ experiences with racism and oppression.

A performance by Ulysses Quartet, a string ensemble whose repertoire include Bach, Haydn, Schubert and Ravel, is available Feb. 26 - March 26.

Third Coast Percussion, a Grammy Award-winning Chicago-based percussion quartet’s performance, is available March 19 - April 10.

A performance by Grammy Award winner Dom Flemons, a songwriter, music scholar and multi-instrumentalist, is available April 9 - May 9.

Returning to Zoellner is jazz bassist and vocalist Casey Abrams who previously performed with Postmodern Jukebox, in a solo performance, April 30 - May 30.

The final performance by multi-platinum recording artist Joan Osborne, who performs “Songs of Bob Dylan,” is available May 21 - June 21.

Tickets: https://zoellner.cas.lehigh.edu/

“Curtain Rises” is a column about the theater, stage shows, the actors in them and the directors and artists who make them happen. To request coverage, email: Paul Willistein, Focus editor, pwillistein@tnonline.com

CONTRIBUTED IMAGE Lehigh University Mustard & Cheese Drama Society, “In the Heights,” 7 p.m. Feb. 26 - March 5, YouTube.
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Dance troupe Sankofa Danzafro, Feb. 17 - March 5, Zoellner Arts Center, “On Stage At Home.”