by Kayla Murphy
The Department of Theatre at Central Connecticut State University held what was considered to be a heartfelt student production of “21 Chump Street,” in Davidson Hall Thursday, Feb. 23.
“This show was very touching,” said CCSU theatre tech major Terysa Malootian. “It pulled at the heart strings.”
“21 Chump Street” is a 15-minute musical written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is well-known for his Broadway shows “In the Heights” and “Hamilton.” Based on true events, the musical is about undercover cops in Florida busting drug deals in high schools.
The show opened with Justin LaBoy, played by Jamel Jimerson, walking into his final semester of high school. As a straight-A and friendly, it’s hard not to like Justin. However, when a beautiful Puerto Rican and Dominican girl named Naomi Rodriguez, played by Madalena Pattacini, walks into two of Justin’s classes, he instantly falls in love.
Justin went great lengths to obtain her affection and attention, and to get Naomi to go out with him. When Naomi asks Justin to get her weed, he hesitates but obliges. Not knowing that Naomi is an undercover cop, Justin makes an “irreversibly bad decision.” Sentenced to a week in jail and a three-year probation. Justin can kiss his dreams of college goodbye.
His first time ever directing a play, Dustin Wong, a senior digital film and TV production major, enjoyed the challenge.
“I’ve directed music videos and short films for class, but nothing like this. After being in two main-stage theatre department productions, I knew I wanted to direct a show. We’ve had a lot of fun working on this,” Wong said.
Wong explained how the show is supposed to be cast for “people of color.”
“I myself am a person of color,” said Wong, “The project that Lin-Manuel created was a show where people of color could shine. However, there are not a lot of people of color in the theatre department. We had some light controversy about how the show was cast, but I firmly believe that there is no need for labels. It’s just a show.”
Wong believes the show’s focus is more on a love story than it is about the color of someone’s skin.
“It’s one of the main reasons why I chose to direct this show as my first student-directed play. It’s a love story everyone can relate to,” Wong said. “It’s about doing everything you can to love someone, but mistakes happen, and you wind up paying the consequences.”
Victoria Johnson, a sophomore criminology and theatre student, was asked by Wong to be his stage manager for the show.
“We had a lot of challenges facing this show. Several of our cast members became ill, so we lost a lot of rehearsal time. Then after the major snow storm that hit two weeks ago, we had to postpone our show. But in the end, the show really came together and we all enjoyed working on it,” said Johnson.
Jamel Jimerson, a sophomore communications major at CCSU, said that he and the cast had been working really hard on this performance for over two months.
“We tried to make it the best experience the audience has ever had in 15 minutes,” said Jimerson.
The next show hosted by the CCSU Theatre Department will be the “Laramie Project,” directed by Prof. Thom Delventhal. Located in the Black Box Theatre in Maloney Hall, show dates are from Feb. 28, to March 4. Tickets are available at the Centix Box Office in the Student Center.