It was "96,000" rounds of applause, peals of laughter and heartfelt kudos for the chorus of In The Heights when an overflow crowd gathered in the Equity Council Room on September 23rd for the Second Annual Advisory Committee on Chorus Affairs (ACCA) Award for Outstanding Broadway Chorus.
Equity Second Vice President and Chair of the ACCA Jean-Paul Richard presided as Master of Ceremonies. In his opening remarks, Richard said, "The chorus is the heartbeat of the Broadway musical, and no heart beats with more versatility and skill than that of the chorus of In The Heights."
This year's winners, all of whom were part of the In The Heights chorus on the musical's March 9, 2008 opening night are: Michael Balderrama, Blanca Camacho, Tony Chiroldes, Rogelio Douglas, Jr., Rosie Lani Fieldelman, Joshua Henry, Afra Hines, Stephanie Klemons, Nina LaFarga, Doreen Montalvo, Javier Muñoz, Krysta Rodriguez, Eliseo Román, Luis Salgado, Shaun Taylor-Corbett and Rickey Tripp. In recognition for their collective accomplishment as an outstanding Broadway chorus, each winner was presented with an elegant ebony plaque, individually inscribed with the cast member's name, and affixed with a gold star.
Among the audience gathered to celebrate the chorus of In The Heights were cast members Lin-Manuel Miranda, Robin DeJesus and Karen Olivo; producers Kevin McCollum, Jeffrey Sellar and Jill Furman; choreographer Andy Blankenbueler; musical director Alex Lacamoire; associate general manager Lizz Cone; company manager Brig Berney; Caitlyn Thomson, assistant to Messers. McCollum and Sellar; press agents Michael Hartman, Wayne Wolfe and Melissa Bixler; and the stage management team of Jason Bassett, Amber Weden and Heather Hogan. They were joined by Equity First Vice President Paige Price, Third Vice President Ira Mont, the entire ACCA committee, Executive Director John P. Connolly and members of the Equity staff.
The ceremony featured several speakers, all of whom echoed the themes of the extraordinary talent and sense of family that is at the heart of the In The Heights cast. Co-creator and Tony Winner (Best Music and Lyrics) Lin-Manuel Miranda, who garnered Equity's Clarence Derwent Award in 2007, spoke of the excitement to hear his show performed every day, a privilege in which most composers do not share, and being a part of it onstage. He also elicited applause from the company who recognized the spot-on imitation Miranda gave as he read a letter of congratulations from director Thomas Kail. Andy Blankenbueler, who won a Tony for his choreography, praised the talents of the company, saying "These people, in this room, not only match the vision I had for this choreography, but they exceed it." He added that this may be one of those theatrical experiences that can never be matched in one's career. Alex Lacamoire, who shares the Tony for Best Orchestrations with Bill Sherman, echoed that sentiment and said the cast of In The Heights "breathes life into the production."
Producer Kevin McCollum recalled his early career as an actor, giving him a deep appreciation of the skill, talent and dedication this chorus brings to In The Heights. Equity's Executive Director John P. Connolly shared his thoughts: "I had the privilege of first seeing In The Heights Off Broadway run soon after I became Equity's Executive Director, so I have a special affection for this show. Now this incredible show - which thrilled me again on its Broadway opening night - is a multiple Tony winner and this year's ACCA winner! It's a privilege and an honor to acknowledge the extraordinary breadth, artistry and passion the chorus bring to the American musical."
Chosen for the caliber of skill and contributions to the overall production, "the chorus of In The Heights exemplifies the hard work, dedication and talent necessary to be outstanding in a Broadway musical," explained Second Vice President and ACCA Chair Jean-Paul Richard in his remarks to the enthusiastic crowd. Before presenting the awards to the chorus, Richard read a congratulatory letter from Chita Rivera. In it she wrote, "The chorus is the "best" foundation for a long, strong career. It is very special."