Mike Magliocca Reflects on His Final UP Stages Show

mike magliocca in UP Stage's In the Heights


Mike Magliocca is a senior Theatre Arts and Chemistry major. He is also playing the leading role of Usnavi in the UPStage’s new production of In the Heights. Magliocca has a long history of shows at Pitt, including Compleat Female Stage Beauty, Sweeney Todd, and Machinal. His many talents include not just acting and singing, but also fight choreography. Despite opening the new show and finishing is student career at Pitt, he recently took the time to reflect and his work on In the Heights.

While Magliocca calls In the Heights, “One of smoothest and most fun projects I have ever worked on”, it has been a long process. The cast list was announced shortly before Christmas break with rehearsals started in February, and with good reason. Magliocca details the process, “we’ve had dance rehearsals, we’ve had just vocal rehearsals, some acting rehearsals, some table work rehearsals, and rehearsals were we put all those things together.” However, he has no complaints, “the rehearsals have been hectic and crazy in such a fun way. I’ve loved the rehearsal process”. All of this onstage work has been backed up by plenty of research into the characters.

Magliocca said that research for the show is, “a challenge, a fun challenge”.  His character of Usnavi was born in the Dominican Republic, but his parents brought him to New York City at a very young age. Magliocca says that the production dramaturgs helped him, ““look into the history of both the places the where the characters come from and the history of New York City, and Latin Americans’ place in New York City”. He laughingly concludes, “It’s been a lot of research”.  Further, Magliocca found the whole cast has endeavored, “to recognize where the characters come from”, so that they are, “portraying the truthfulness of where these characters come from, where they are now, and where they want to go”.  The process not only introduced him to new life experiences and characters, but new styles of theatre.

Magliocca has been in many shows, but none quite like In the Heights. After being in works by Stephen Sondheim, William Shakespeare, and Sophie Treadwell, Magliocca had to learn whole new styles for the musical by Quiara Alegría Hudes and Lin-Manuel Miranda.  He explains, “It’s such a different style of musical, a different style of play and world than I’ve ever been steeped in. I’ve done Shakespeare, I’ve done Restoration Comedy, and this is so contemporary.” More specifically he states, “Learning hip-hop dance and music are so exciting”.  The play has added to his range as an actor, but Magliocca is clear that the process is a group effort.

In the Heights is a huge undertaking. The sheer size of the show can be an obstacle, and Magliocca says, “Anytime you bring in a lot of elements like dancing, and singing, and rapping, and moving, layering all of those things is defiantly a challenge”. However, he found that a great team has been up to the challenge, “I can’t speak enough about the director, the choreographer, the music director, and the whole team.” Magliocca is sure to acknowledge that the show’s success is due to all of the hard work on stage and off.

The payoff for all of this work by so many people over several months is a huge, fun show.  For Maglicocca the best moments are when everyone is on stage in the multiple big group numbers. He states it is, “so much fun, just to have everyone on stage” and that Staycee Pearl’s choreography is “beautiful and fun”.  In conclusion he says, “I hope the audience has as much fun as we are having on stage”.  Make sure to catch UPStages’ production of the Tony winning In the Heights and see Magliocca’s final show at Pitt. In the Heights runs through Sunday in the Charity Randall Theatre.