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New ‘Heights’ for Wheelock Family Theatre

Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote the music and lyrics for the Tony-winning “In the Heights,” which is being staged by the Wheelock Family Theatre.
Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP/file
Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote the music and lyrics for the Tony-winning “In the Heights,” which is being staged by the Wheelock Family Theatre.

The Wheelock Family Theatre opens its 2017-18 season on Oct. 27 with a production of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights,” and to prepare, the cast talked via Skype with Quiara Alegría Hudes, who wrote the original book for the Tony-winning musical.

“She was amazing; we still have chills and goosebumps from talking to her,” said Wheelock Family Theatre executive director Linda Chin. “The cast is just so, so grateful for her generosity, because [people] don’t usually take the time to meet with the cast.”

Hudes gave the talk on Wednesday, a day before making news. On Thursday, she posted a note to social media saying she hoped that The Weinstein Company, formerly led by Harvey Weinstein, would give up its rights to make a film adaptation of the musical. Weinstein was fired last weekend after being accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct.

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“‘In the Heights’ deserves a fresh start in a studio where I’ll feel safe (as will my actors and collaborators),” Hudes wrote.

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Miranda, best known for creating the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton,’’ tweeted his support, posting Hudes’s note and adding: “As usual, Quiara does the prose the best. She speaks for us both.”

Chin chose “In the Heights” to open the theater’s season for its portrayal of the real-life struggles of the Latino community, a group that is not always represented adequately in theater.

“We have done colorful casting for three decades,” said Chin. “We think it’s really important for kids to see themselves reflected onstage.”

Chin said Wheelock has heard from Miranda, although it wasn’t about its production of “In the Heights.”

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The day the cast started rehearsals for the show, Chin receieved a hand-written note from Miranda thanking the theater for honoring him with last year’s Wheel Award, which highlights artists who work to enhance youth art education. Chin had invited Miranda to attend the ceremony, but heard no reply until the letter arrived. Chin thought it was a joke at first, but it turned out to be very real.

“Thank you kindly for your gracious invitation and the bestowed honor. Your support means the world,” Miranda’s note reads. “Although I will be regretfully unable to attend, here’s wishing you all continued success.”

Now, Chin feels compelled to continue the correspondence.

“I need to write to him, and I will write to him,” said Chin. “It’s really important to our cast to send him a thank-you message, because we are just very, very grateful for what he’s doing.”

The cast has decided to put on a cabaret in collaboration with other local artists on Nov. 6 to raise money for Puerto Rico hurricane relief.