North Brunswick actress takes skills to new ‘Heights’

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Milena Makse of North Brunswick, left, star as Nina and Abuela Claudia, respectively, in Phoenix Productions' version of "In The Heights," playing at the Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank June 22-24.PHOTO COURTESY OF PHOENIX PRODUCTIONS
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Milena Makse of North Brunswick, left, star as Nina and Abuela Claudia, respectively, in Phoenix Productions' version of "In The Heights," playing at the Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank June 22-24.PHOTO COURTESY OF PHOENIX PRODUCTIONS
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 North Brunswick resident Milena Makse will assume a lead role in Phoenix Productions’ upcoming revival of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In The Heights.”

Makse joins the cast as the admired “good girl” Nina Rosario, Benny’s love interest and the first in her family to go to college, according to information provided by Phoenix Productions. Everyone in the barrio admires her as the “one who made it out;” however, she returns home for the summer to reluctantly tell her parents that she has flunked out.

“Nina is a very strong person who fights for what she wants, though she may not seem like it in the audience’s first interaction with her,” Makse said in the statement. “She’s also very stubborn, which I do love about her. It motivates her to keep fighting for what she wants, whether it be her college education or Benny, the man that she loves.”

The show, sponsored by D’Agostino and Associates “The Injury Firm,” will take place at the Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank June 22-24. Performances are at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and at 3 p.m. Sunday.

“In the Heights” tells a captivating story about what it means to chase your dreams, cling to your roots and celebrate the community from which you grew.

“The show started off as a way to show the pride and beauty of Washington Heights [New York], but since then, it has turned into so much more than that,” Makse said in the statement. “This show is about the power of home and community. Washington Heights is a beautiful example of the safety and community having a home can provide.”

Although this is Makse’s first production with Phoenix, she is no stranger to the stage. She has had notable roles such as an ensemble performer in the North Brunswick Young Adult Drama Group’s production of “Urinetown” and as leading lady Veronica Sawyer in the Villagers Theatre production of “Heathers,” which she considers one of her proudest achievement to date, according to the statement.

Recently, she rounded out her sophomore year of college at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, working toward a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drama.

Tickets for the show can be purchased in person at the box office, 99 Monmouth St., Red Bank; by phone at 732-842-9000; or online at www.countbasietheatre.org.