Student to lead Tony-award-winning musical In The Heights

Wednesday, April 17, 2013 - 19:20


  • Media is invited to film, photograph and visit In The Heights rehearsals now through the end of April. After that, final dress rehearsal is open to the media at 7:30 p.m. May 15 (Wednesday).
  • To attend a rehearsal or for more information about Artes de la Rosa, contact director Adam Adolfo at
  • To find out more, including ticket prices and performance dates, visit
  • To request an interview with Matt Ransdell, email or call Margarita Venegas at the numbers/email above.


For an actor waiting on a call back, the days until you know if you’ve landed the part can be excruciating. Imagine waiting nearly five years.

UNT senior Matt Ransdell was just 19 when he received an assignment to find and apply for a professional theater job as part of an exercise in one of his Department of Theatre and Dance classes. Many of his classmates applied for stage manager or crew positions. Ransdell knew he wanted to act, so he went online and found an acting job that described him perfectly: 20ish-year-old Latino male with a comedic background and the ability to rap very well. The description of the character also seemed to share Ransdell’s disposition – an optimistic person who wants more out of life and who loves his community. Best of all, the job was on Broadway.

“At 19, I went to New York to audition for In The Heights,” Ransdell, now 24, recalled. “I had no professional experience, no knowledge about what I was getting myself into.”

He didn’t get the part.

But, Ransdell remained drawn to the story of a “good kid” from the Dominican-American Washington Heights neighborhood in New York City. Although the musical contains hip-hop music, it’s not the stereotypical “Latinos in the barrio” story, Ransdell said. It’s a positive story that reflects the struggles of Latinos trying to make better lives for themselves and those they love – and the story is universal enough to appeal to everyone, Ransdell said.

After years of following the progress of In The Heights, which won four Tony Awards and was nominated for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Ransdell learned a few months ago that his dream to play the lead character, Usnavi, was once again within reach when Fort Worth’s Artes de la Rosa Cultural Center decided to produce the play.

This time, he got the part.

“Usnavi is the core of In the Heights and I am so excited to have Matt as the heart of our Heights family,” said director Adam Adolfo. “He brings a singular voice and spirit to the stage that is infectious and exuberant. His joy, passion, and charisma are critical to making Usnavi a living, breathing larger-than-life storyteller. As a cast member and young artist, Matt highlights the joy in almost all situations and quite unconsciously makes those around him stronger performers because of it. His long history with the show makes our production all the more special to us because of it.”

Adolfo agreed that many people will identify with the musical’s storyline.

“This is a musical about learning what it means to be ‘at home’ in a culture or a community that you feel disconnected to,” Adolfo said. “We all want to know where we come from, but also long to grow beyond that and this show traces individuals who are deciding which traditions they will take with them, and which ones to leave behind.”

Music and choreography rehearsals have already started – and Ransdell isn’t alone in making the 45-minute commute from Denton to Fort Worth. Four other UNT students are in the show. Michael Alonzo is a secondary character, The Piagua Guy, and three students are in the ensemble, Aigner Mathis, Rashad Turley and Jordan Ghanbari.

Ransdell said he feels talent and dedication from everyone involved in this production and expects audiences will see a quality production during the show’s run from May 17 to June 9.

In the Heights is a show for this generation. This is a production that people should travel to see,” he said.

For tickets and more information, visit Artes de la Rosa’s website at

UNT News Service
(940) 565-2108