An inspirational Brooklyn student is taking his talents to new heights.
Eighteen-year-old Samuel Langshteyn, a senior at Fort Hamilton High School, is a dancer who is starring in the school’s adaption of the famous Broadway show “In the Heights,” where he will display his exceptional dancing moves.
But this is no ordinary stage-struck student. Despite being deaf, and not being able to hear dialogue or the music clearly, Langshteyn has proven he can shine on the stage.
“I overcame the challenge of not hearing by trying to memorize the lyrics and I look for cues from the other actors,” said Langshteyn. “I sometimes feel the vibration on the stage from the loud music which helps me know where we are. I had surgery to have a cochlear device when I was two and I hear vibrations.”
Thanks to the surgery, he is able not only to keep up with other dancers, but perform at a higher level, much to surprise of his fellow classmates and cast members.
“It’s crazy. I don’t know how he does it,” said senior Mickey Kaplan, who plays Usnavi, and has deaf grandparents who will attend the show.
“He’s not just a good dancer, he has swag,” added senior Cesar Zapata.
Despite obstacles that he’s faced over the years, Langshteyn, who is from Brighton Beach, has always loved theater. “I fell in love with it when I was in middle school, Bay Academy, which is a talent school I went to for dance,” he said. “I love to dance and continued my love of dance in high school. I had very small roles in ‘Avenue Q’ and ‘Gypsy.’ But ‘In the Heights’ is much bigger. I dance in many scenes with different dance partners.”
“In the Heights,” a musical with music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, better known for the blockbuster Broadway musical “Hamilton,” takes place in Washington Heights and deals with the lives of Dominican-Americans and their experiences in the neighborhood. The music is impressive, as is the dancing, and Langshteyn plans to bring that to Fort Hamilton High’s adaptation, despite challenges.
“The toughest and most rewarding part of the journey is becoming comfortable with the Latino persona,” he said. “The show is very Latino, especially with salsa dancing and the way people walk and talk. I am a white Jewish boy so it was hard to get into the Latino root inside me but I feel like I have succeeded in doing that.”
His dance skills have been put to the test as he has perfected an extensive dance number for the show.
“My favorite part of the show is the ‘Carnaval’ scene where the big dance happens,” he said. “It’s the most challenging part of the show because I have to stay in sync with other dancers.”
“Carnaval del Barrio” is a fan favorite number in the show, lasting around eight minutes, and includes a whopping 29 cast members on the stage.
It may be difficult, but Langshteyn’s passion makes it worthwhile. “I feel very connected to dance and I’m very motivated because I know I’m doing something I love,” he said. “I’m a little nervous, but it’s good to be nervous.”
As he is about to go on to college, the performer has fond memories of Fort Hamilton. “I enjoy high school very much,” he said. (Fort Hamilton) is very accommodating and I am excited to be a part of this amazing show. I will be going to Rochester Institute of Technology and my career goal is to become a filmmaker but for now I am going to pursue a visual arts-related communications career.”
Director of the musical William Coulter is impressed by Langshteyn’s skills. “He’s absolutely phenomenal,” he said. “He’s an extremely hard worker. He is a sensitive artist and everybody loves him. He’s exceeded my expectations by far and he is literally the best male dancer you’ll see on the stage.”
“It has been a beyond-rewarding experience working with Sam as his American Sign Language interpreter,” added interpreter Jamie Hays. “Having a background in theater, this was a perfect pairing to work with a dedicated, motivated and passionate student. Plus, the kid’s humor is off the hook, as are his dance moves.”
As for advice with conditions similar to Langshteyn, he has a few words of encouragement. “I would say to just go for it,” he said. “I know it’s very tough to be involved in theater when you’re deaf, however you should try out and see if you enjoy it.”