Drama teacher Kristina Menissian

Lin-Manuel Miranda Surprises Mass. High School Performing ‘In the Heights’

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By Eli Curwin

REVERE, Mass. (Boston.com) — High School students performing in Revere High School’s rendition of the Broadway musical “In the Heights” earlier this April received a surprise message in anticipation of their show’s premiere this week.

As students sat in one of the school’s classrooms, they were greeted by the familiar voice of the Tony award-winning creator of “Hamilton” and “In the Heights” — Lin-Manuel Miranda.

At first, Miranda appeared to be singing the opening number of “In the Heights,” but as he finished the verse, Revere students erupted as he wished them good luck.

“Hey Revere, good morning, break a leg on your show!” Miranda said. “Congratulations, remember to be a community every second you’re on that stage.”

While teachers recorded their reaction, some students excitedly screamed and others gasped when they heard the video.

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After weeks of exhausting rehearsals, Revere High School drama teacher Kristina Menissian told Boston.com that the video provided the boost students and faculty needed.

“[The students] were screaming … just in shock, and then they watched it a million times more,” she said. “And then they posted it everywhere they could. Just super excited, what we needed for the morale boost.”

Menissian says that she received the video unprompted from the acclaimed writer and director.

“Normally I order T-shirts shirts through a local business, and because this show is such a huge show musically, set-wise, and costumes … we contacted the official merchandizing site for ‘In the Heights,’” Menissian said. “And we told the gentleman on the phone just about our story and the kids.”

“He kept asking us questions about it, which was a little odd. … And by the end of the conversation, he said ‘I don’t know if you know, but I’m Lin’s brother-in-law … let me see what I could do,’” the drama teacher recounted. “We weren’t expecting anything, but it was just cool to talk to him. Then about two weeks later, he sent the video. And I held on to the video for probably another week and a half, and [I] knew that the week before our show week is just a tough time.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda in the original Broadway cast of “In the Heights”

Menissian said the department decided to perform “In the Heights,” a musical about the Latino community in New York City’s Washington Heights neighborhood, specifically, because 70% of Revere’s student body is Hispanic, with many of the young people having faced similar obstacles to characters in the show.

“There’s a lot of things that our City of Revere has gone through, so I know that [the students] experience it for themselves,” Menissian said. “I mean, the characters in the show cope with the same things that any immigrant family goes through in terms of language barriers, missing family members that are still in their home countries, and working a million jobs just to try to make ends meet. … I know that our kids go through the same things that these characters in the show go through as well.”

The performance will be the first musical production at the school in over 30 years, Menissian said. The school is hoping to promote other students’ artistic and musical work during the performance as well.

“I tried to make it more of a community effort to try to also have representation in the band,” Menissian said. “And I also sent out a thing to our district to ask kids to produce poetry, artwork, and photography of what makes Revere their home. Because one of the major themes [of the musical] is home.”

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