Jump to main content

COVID-19: News and campus updates | University policies and resources

Singing and Dancing to New Heights

Multitalented Musical Theatre alumna Magdalena Rodriguez takes the stage in New York and, via a Disney cruise ship, around the Caribbean.

Magdalena Rodriguez first fell in love with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In The Heights when it toured. A few years later, after earning her UNC Musical Theatre degree, she gained a different perspective on the Tony-award winning musical — this time, with a view from the stage instead of the audience.

The Long Island theater where she performed in a regional production of In The Heights is a long way from Magdalena’s hometown of Phoenix, where she first got into acting as a third grader in Annie. When it came time to choose a college, a friend’s older sister told her about UNC’s theatre program, and Magdalena began to see musical theatre as a career path.

She got into four programs, but one stood out.

“When I visited UNC to audition, I honestly just fell in love,” she says. “I met the people who were in the program at the time, and they were so kind.”

College is about so much more than the title of the school.

That friendliness proved important over the course of her college career — she joined a sorority, made friends with students in different majors, forged mentorship connections with her professors and prepared for life after college. She and her friends supported one another at shows and events, and they helped ease any homesickness she felt.

Three years in, she landed her first lead role at UNC as Amneris in the musical Aida, put on by Little Theatre of the Rockies. She met her agent during the New York Musical Theatre Showcase trip her senior year, and after graduating, she choreographed the Little Theatre of the Rockies’ production of The Addams Family.

“I was grateful that I had opportunities to do a bunch of different things with the shows, not just perform,” Magdalena says.

When she arrived in New York later that year, she participated in a reading for a new musical directed by Jeff Whiting, an acclaimed director whom she’d met at her high school and at UNC. She acted in Footloose, kept auditioning, and eventually booked a Disney Fantasy cruise show. For nine months, she traveled, performed and made friends from all around the world — the Philippines, England, South Africa. When she got back, she was cast in In the Heights, where she performed in the spring of 2018.

As far as choosing a college goes, she says, “college is about so much more than the title of the school” — so choose somewhere you’ll be happy. You may just find yourself center stage.