Photo courtesy of Chazdphotography. Performers Ariana Perera, ‘23, and Isabella Falber, ‘23, get their nails done at a salon in Washington Heights, New York City, the setting of the musical.

Nathalie Mareno | Aug. 31, 12:47 p.m.

Buckner Theatre performers Ariana Perera, ‘23, and Isabella Falber, ‘23, took their Broadway aspirations to the next level this summer after landing major roles in the popular Broadway show In The Heights.

The performances took place at the Spanish Lyric Theatre (SLT) in Tampa from July 29 to August 7. 

On the SLT website, the musical was described as “the universal story of a vibrant community in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood — a place where the coffee from the corner bodega is light and sweet, the windows are always open and the breeze carries the rhythm of three generations of music.”

Southern Editor | The Southern Newspaper Photo courtesy of Chazdphotography.
Ariana Perara played Vanessa, who Perera described as a “strong” and “independent” character in the musical.

The original production of In The Heights debuted in 2007 off-Broadway, before making a Broadway debut the next year. The show’s music was composed by Lin-Manuel Miranda (known mainly for “Hamilton”) and became his first Broadway hit. The musical later received a film adaption in 2021, featuring a star-studded cast of Hispanic actors, including Anthony Ramos, who also worked with Miranda on Hamilton.

Senior Ariana Perera played Vanessa, a woman who works in the neighborhood salon, and who Perera described as strong and independent.

“She cares deeply about her friends, but she is also determined to better herself and get out of the barrio,” Perera said.

Auditions originally took place in 2020, but production was cut short due to the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic. The cast was completely made up of people of color, something not often seen in the entertainment industry until recently. Luckily, in light of things slowly returning to normalcy, the show was able to resume production this summer. 

“Being part of a cast that was fully all POCs in a show about diversity and home was so special to me,” Perera said when asked about her favorite part of working on the show. “We all got along so well and are already planning on seeing each other’s shows and hanging out.”

Perera attributes a lot of her success to her education here at FSC, commenting mainly on the vocal improvement she’s experienced after working on her solo the entire past semester. 

She also felt the support of the Florida Southern community when she looked out at the crowd and spotted other students and friends there to support her and a good friend who also was given the opportunity to participate in In the Heights.

Isabella Falber, another theater department senior, worked alongside Perera, playing another main cast member named Carla. Falber describes her character as “naive, innocent, bush tailed,” and said she was a fan of Carla’s growth throughout the story. 

“I really wanted to make Carla my own and find a way to stay true to the stage vision while also incorporating my own personal vision,” Falber said. “I had to find our similarities and lean into those.”

Falber was able to perform in her hometown with both friends and family. 

“I was in the show with my best friend [Perera] who played Vanessa and my family friend Elizabeth Cabrera who played Abuela,” she remembered. “It was so beautiful to be able to share that moment with her.”

Of the whole production, both students remember the community and culture that they built with the cast and crew, considering them family now. 

“There’s something about this show and our Hispanic culture—it wraps you in a hug and won’t let you go. You have no choice but to hold on and you’ll never wanna let go.”


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