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In the Heights of Success

Stars of the show Elena Morvant (10, left) and Cole Roberts (12, right).

Two Fort Lauderdale High School students performed in the Broward County Summer Theater Camp Production of In the Heights. Senior Cole Roberts and sophomore Elena Morvant respectively played the roles of Usnavi and Carla in the Aug. 12 and 13 productions of the play at the Broward Center’s Amaturo Theater. Morvant was also a member of the ensemble.

In the Heights is a Tony Award-winning musical created by famous composer, lyricist, and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda. It tells the story of Washington Heights, a spirited Latino community located in upper Manhattan, New York. The musical portrays the different journeys and struggles of different characters in the close-knit community using touching lyrics and energetic choreography. The mix of the upbeat rapping style in songs such as “96,000” and “Benny’s Dispatch”, combined with the strong voices in more heart touching songs such as “Paciencia y Fe”, makes In the Heights worthy of all the praise it has gotten over the years. 

Introduced to theater through his older sister, Roberts found his passion for performing in middle school and it hasn’t died down. Performing gives him a rush that he gets nowhere else.

“Not only do I like acting and singing, it’s a rush to actually get on stage and perform in front of a bunch of people,” he commented. “It’s thrilling and a lot of fun.”

Morvant was born to perform. At the age of three, she was pulled up on a stage at a music festival and her journey in the performing arts continues to this day with theater and dance. She attended her first theater camp at 9-years-old and continues to frequent every summer.

 “I love to perform because I think it’s great to be able to work on something and get to show people how much hard work you’ve put into it,” she said. “It feels like an accomplishment to get to be up on the stage.”

It was neither of the performers’ first time on stage with the Broward County Summer Theater Camp. In fact, Roberts’ first show was at the Broward Center. They were both in high spirits to see friends and get back in the groove of performing after being unable to attend last summer due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Roberts played the main character of the musical, Usnavi. He’d signed up for the production with his sights on the role, and he was very eager to play the role when he received it. 

“I really liked his character. He’s very energetic so I thought he was gonna be a really fun character to play,” he said. “He also does a lot of rapping in the show which I knew would be a lot of fun to do.”

Though Roberts cannot relate to the ethnic backgrounds of his role, he shared that he empathsizes with his character’s struggle and believes that his story is very inspiring. He also said that the character he can relate to the most in the musical is Usanvi due to their personalities.

“I thought his personality was very relatable. For example, The way he’s more outgoing around certain people and more reserved around others that he’s trying to impress more.”

Morvant played one of the supporting characters, Carla. She also played in the ensemble.

Though she loves her character, the character she can relate to the most in the musical is one of the other main leads, Vanessa. 

“She is such a hard worker and she has big dreams to leave where she lives in search of more,” she said. “I’m always thinking about how my life is going to change after high school, where I’m gonna go for college, I can’t imagine staying in Florida for the rest of my life. I want to see the world.”

One of the reasons this musical meant so much to Morvant is because it helped her relate to her mother more. Her mother is a first generation immigrant from Argentina. She had to go through many of the same conflicts some of the characters did in the musical, such as culture shock and having to restart her life in a different country. 

Both Roberts and Morvant agree that one of their favorite parts of the production was the performing itself. 

“The best part of the production was the feeling when the curtains came up on the first night of our show. It’s indescribable,” Morvant shared. “You get a sudden rush of adrenaline and your mind goes blank with excitement for three perfect seconds before you remember you have a job to do, that first step on the stage never gets old no matter how many times you’ve performed.” 

Regrettably, Morvant will not be joining Fort Lauderdale High School’s theater club due to her very busy schedule, but make sure you get your tickets to see Cole Roberts at the FLHS production of  All Together Now on November 12 in the lecture hall! Tickets are available on the eStore.

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