Pioneer students celebrate salsa, hip-hop, and immigrants’ dreams with musical and gala fundraiser

Pioneer Theatre Guild presents Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning debut musical "In the Heights"

Pioneer junior Shane Collins rehearses the song “96,000” with members of the cast of In the Heights. Photo by M. Ruth Morris.

Students in Pioneer High School’s latest musical don’t need to go to a social studies class to learn about immigration and the American Dream.  Their spring musical, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights,” explores the lives and dreams of several small business owners in the predominantly Latin-American neighborhood of Washington Heights in New York City.  

Director Christopher Campbell, a senior University of Michigan Musical Theatre student, isn’t just passionate about the show. He performed in it last summer at the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera with members of the original Broadway cast.

Director Christopher Campbell

“This show overflows with humanity,” Campbell says. “As you watch, you can’t help but identify with the characters, and I think we’re all learning at each rehearsal.”

The show’s unique blend of hip-hop and salsa has also attracted a number of students who have never performed in musicals before.

Shane Collins, a high school junior playing the lead role of Usnavi de la Vega, says this show has changed his life.

“This is a different experience from what I’ve done ever before,” Collins says. “I’m glad there’s rap in the show because it opens up opportunities for people like me who would never think to do a musical.”

Performance Dates:

  • Saturday, April 21, 7:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, April 22, 2:00 p.m. 
  • Friday, April 28, 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, April 29, 7:30 p.m.  
  • Sunday, April 30, 2:00 p.m. 
Co-producer Quinn Strassel talks publicity strategy with Pioneer freshman and member of the lights crew Adam Guerriero. Photo by M. Ruth Morris.

Pioneer Theatre Guild student president Francisco Fiori says the choreography and music are as challenging as anything he’s ever done before.

“But it’s twice as rewarding because it’s a story I can connect to,” Fiori says. “Both my parents are immigrants and this show is a celebration of what it means to be proud of your heritage and where you come from.”

To help the community join in the celebration, the Pioneer Theatre Guild Booster Club is hosting the “In the Heights Opening Night Gala”, featuring local Salsa band Los Gatos and food trucks serving Latin-American food.  

“It’s going to be a celebration of the many cultures of Washington Heights,” says co-producer, Alex Leydenfrost. “And it also helps us raise scholarship money for students who wouldn’t otherwise be able to participate.”  The gala is opening night, Saturday, April 21st at 6 p.m. (an hour and 30 minutes before the show starts).

Tickets are: $15 (adults), $10 (students and 65+ seniors), or $50/$100 for the Opening Night Gala.

Reserved seating tickets are available at and will also be available at the door.  All performances are in Schreiber Auditorium.

The crew includes:

Director/choreographer: Christopher Campbell.

Music director: R. Mackenzie Lewis.

Assistant director: Noah Metzler.

Assistant choreographer: Maya Alwan.

Assistant music director: Garrett Forrestal.

Producers:  Quinn Strassel and Alex Leydenfrost.

Technical Director: Mysti Plummer.

Click here for more information.


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