PEMBROKE — Roddy Kennedy doesn’t have too much trouble getting in character for the show “In the Heights.”
The Tony Award-winning musical, which is coming to Givens Performing Arts Center on Tuesday, is set in Manhattan’s Washington Heights, where Kennedy lives in real life.
“Washington Heights is a really tight-knit community,” Kennedy said. “It’s a Latin community that thrives on community.”
The show will be held at 8 p.m. Tuesday. Tickets range from $15 to $40, and are $5 for students. The performance falls on Military Night, so those with a valid military ID will receive a discounted ticket for $25. To purchase tickets, call 910-521-6361.
Kennedy plays Graffiti Pete in the show. The main character is Usnavi, the owner of the local bodega, or mini-mart. Usnavi is close with nearly everyone in the community.
“From the experience I’ve had living there, I even have a relationship with my local bodega owner,” Kennedy said. “This was even before I had seen the show.”
Kennedy’s character is good friends with Sonny, the cousin of Usnavi. Other notable characters include “Abuela” Claudia, an elder of the neighborhood who acts like everyone’s grandmother. Vanessa is Usnavi’s love interest.
“You fall in love with every character, and that rarely happens in a show, that you generally care for every single character that is introduced to you,” Kennedy said.
The plot thickens when Usnavi finds he has sold a winning lottery ticket to someone in the community, and no one knows who.
“ … They all get really excited because winning that much money could change anybody’s life … ,” Kennedy said. “There’s a sense of hope that everything can change for the better.”
The two-hour show is full of Latin music and dance numbers and is suitable for all ages.
“I think the energy of the show is fantastic,” Kennedy said. “The thing that makes it relatable is the idea of community and family and hope. We are all connected essentially as human beings, human nature, human emotions and the human experience is something we can all relate to.”
The 26-year-old has been a member of the cast since September. He was born and raised in California and has been living in New York for two years.
Being of half-Hispanic descent, Kennedy said the show has been a great help in immersing himself in that part of his heritage, but says the show has overarching themes beyond that.
“The show isn’t just about Latin culture,” Kennedy said.”It’s about uniting each other.”
Kennedy’s favorite part of the show is singing “Carnival,” an upbeat number during the second half that comes during a dark period of the story: a blackout that leaves the neighborhood sweating in the heat.
“It turns into a much deeper-rooted celebration,” Kennedy said. “It’s more of a celebration of pride and respect and a sense of understanding that what we do in everyday life is a representation of us.”
The tour began in September and will continue until mid-June, spanning the United States and parts of Canada. Kennedy’s schedule is grueling — five or six shows a week, and sometimes as many as eight. But he says it is worth it to live his childhood dream.
“As I got older I realized I could actually make this in to a career and it was something I fell in love with,” Kennedy said. “I didn’t’ know it was a possible dream.”
— Reach features editor Amanda Munger at 910-272-6144 or firstname.lastname@example.org.