Holmdel Teen Stars in Phoenix’s ‘In The Heights’

June 21, 2018
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Gaby Resende of Roselle and Sarah Coleman of Holmdel star as Daniela and Carla in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony award-winning musical “In The Heights” at Count Basie Center for the Arts June 22 – 24. Courtesy Phoenix Productions

By Jenna Moldaver |

RED BANK – Sarah Coleman, a sophomore at Red Bank Catholic and a Holmdel resident, will be performing in a lead role in Phoenix Production’s revival of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In The Heights” at Count Basie Center for the Arts June 22 – 24.

Coleman is no stranger to big roles. She recently secured the 2018 Count Basie Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical for her role in Red Bank Catholic’s “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” and has performed with Phoenix in “White Christmas,” “The Sound of Music,” “Peter Pan,” “Gypsy,” “A Christmas Story” and “Seussical.” She also has performed for years with the Paper Mill Playhouse, Summer Arts Conservatory and Elise Klinger Dance Studio.

Shy as a child, the actress got her start unexpectedly at age 6 when she was cast as Cinderella in “Cinderella Junior.”

“When I told my mom, she didn’t believe me,” Coleman said. “She thought I was lying because I was just so painfully shy. But then Cinderella was basically my start.”

And she hasn’t looked back. As she gained more experience in the performing world, whether at summer intensives, in school shows or on the Count Basie stage, Coleman’s career ambitions began to shift. The 16-year-old plans on pursuing musical theater in college.

“I always thought I wanted to be a dentist when I was younger because I was really good at science,” Coleman said. “But then as I kept doing more shows my interests star ted to change a little. Now I want to go to college for musical theater – that’s my interest.”

Mapping History in Red Bank

Coleman will be starring as naive Carla in “In The Heights.” She describes the character as innocent, likable, sweet and funny, and says she admires her for her positivity and ability to stay focused, no matter what.

“She’s very grounded and knows what’s the basis in her life, which is God and her religion, and it’s sweet,” Coleman said.

As she’s prepared for her role, Coleman has grown particularly close to the cast. Set over a three-day period, “In The Heights” tells the story of a vibrant Washington Heights neighborhood with strong ties and a true spirit of community. This closeness, Coleman explains, has translated into the relationships between cast members and she has found within her “In The Heights” cast a sense of community not unlike the one they strive to convey on stage.

“Now everyone’s just friends,” Coleman said. “We have to act like we’re neighbors and that we’ve known each other our whole lives and that’s what it feels like. It feels like we’ve known each other for a long time.”

Coleman is one of the youngest members of the cast, making her one of few performers who has trouble recalling what life was like in 2008, the year “In The Heights” takes place. She says, ”In 2008, I was 6, while everyone else was around 12 or 13. And so where they were coming from when doing their character analysis, they knew what it was like in 2008.”

Beyond this, Coleman feels no different being one of the youngest, and is accustomed to working alongside older performers – either college students or adults – and professional actors. In her cast, Coleman has found a community and together they have created a show Coleman is thrilled to share with an audience soon.

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“Overall the experience is just amazing,” Coleman said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better cast to do the show and I’m just so excited. I think about it all the time.”

This article was first published in the June 14-June 21, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.

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