Dayton Daily News
Didn’t get tickets to ‘Hamilton’? See ‘In the Heights’ instead
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton” phenomenon has finally crept into our region, thanks to our neighbors to the east (Columbus’ Ohio Theatre through Feb. 17) and south (Cincinnati’s Aronoff Center beginning Feb. 19 through March 10). But if you weren’t able to shell out the big bucks for either engagement and still want to savor Miranda’s groundbreaking, hip-hop brilliance, it’s not too late to support his breakthrough hit “In the Heights,” the 2008 Tony Award-winning musical receiving a knockout production at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park through Sunday, Feb. 17.
Warmly directed by May Adrales with a spirited cast on par with the Broadway original, “In the Heights” dazzles with refreshing intimacy and enormous heart, which is imperative since the libretto by Quiara Alegría Hudes is lovingly fueled by the beauty, simplicity and earnestness of New York’s Washington Heights community.
As the hopes and dreams of this predominately Hispanic neighborhood arise with an appealing kinship reminiscent of “Fiddler on the Roof ” and “Once On This Island,” issues of race, class, immigration, family responsibilities and expectations, and the sheer pursuit of the American Dream deeply resonate. In fact, “Paciencia y Fe (Patience and Faith),” the show’s cultural centerpiece sung by an elderly matriarch contemplating her future while reflecting on her upbringing in Cuba and making a living in America as a maid, will always be one of the most powerful depictions of the immigrant story in the musical theatre canon.
In addition to William Carlos Angulo’s fantastically soulful choreography, an infectious blend of hip-hop and Latin movement notably accented by the fierce contributions of ensemble member Alexander Gil Cruz, outstanding performances are delivered by Ryan Alvarado (Usnavi), Yassmin Alers (Abuela Claudia), Sophia Macias (Nina, her spinetingling rendition of “Breathe” is a highlight), Karmine Alers (Camila), Lillian Castillo (Daniela), Tony Chiroldes (Kevin), Nicolas Garza (Sonny), David Kaverman (Benny), and Henry Gainza (Piragua Guy). Also, Dan Kazemi’s superbly balanced orchestra is perched atop Tim Mackabee’s efficient two-level set.
For tickets or more information, call (513) 421-3888 or visit cincyplay.com.
Cincy Shakespeare delivers remarkable ‘Fences’
Another must-see showcase belongs to Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s splendid production of August Wilson’s 1987 Tony and Pulitzer Prizewinning drama “Fences,” continuing through Saturday, Feb. 16. It’s the first Wilson play to be presented by the troupe in its 25-year history.
Skillfully directed by Christopher V. Edwards (responsible for the troupe’s equally striking 2017 production of “A Raisin in the Sun”) and set in 1950s Pittsburgh, “Fences” tells the compelling saga of Troy Maxson, a former Negro League baseball player-turned-sanitation worker (marvelously embodied with humor, arrogance, grit, rage, and fascinating nuance by guest actor “ranney”) who particularly can’t understand why his youngest son Cory (Crystian Wiltshire) would rather play football than pursue a trade. As father and son battle (scenic designer Shannon Moore’s terrifically detailed set contains a backyard resembling a boxing ring), Edwards ensures Wilson’s impactful poetry charms and stings with great authenticity grounded in the meaningful if often wounded bonds of family.
The phenomenally compatible cast includes Torie Wiggins as Troy’s devoted wife Rose, Darnell Pierre Benjamin as Troy’s eldest son Lyons, Sylvester Little Jr. as Troy’s best friend Jim Bono, Morgan Reynolds as innocent Raynell, and Geoffrey Warren Barnes II as Troy’s mentally-challenged brother Gabriel.
For tickets or more information, call (513) 381-2273 or visit cincyshakes.com.
‘Five Seasons’ at Neon Movies
Following a sold-out screening last fall, “Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf ” returns to the Neon Movies Sunday, Feb. 10 at 5:30 p.m. Presented by the Garden Club of Dayton, the film explores the creative process of designer and plantsman Piet Oudolf, specifically his abstract sketches, theories of beauty and the ecological implications of his ideas. Tickets are $10 and are available in advance at the Neon or online at neonmovies.com. All proceeds will support the Garden Club of Dayton’s community projects. The Neon is located at 130 E. Fifth St., Dayton.
Wright State updates
■ Junior and senior students of the WSU Dance Program will be spotlighted in “Emerging Choreographers 2019,” slated Feb. 15-17 in WSU’s DanceSpace 170 inside the Creative Arts Center on campus, located at 3640 Col. Glenn Hwy., Dayton. The concert features world premiere choreography by seniors Laura Blaufuss, Heather Cagle, Rita Cavicchia, Allison Syvertsen, Jordan Garcia, Tasha’ra Maye, Sierra Miller, Elly Wood, and Kennedi Jones as well as juniors Courtney Anderson, Hannah Neff, Jacob Shade, and Mikaela Sobolik. Performances are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. A $5 donation is suggested to support future student productions.
■ Due to the ongoing faculty strike at the time of this publication, WSU’s production of “Mother Courage and Her Children” is now tentatively scheduled Feb. 13-17 in the Festival Playhouse of the Creative Arts Center. For more information, call the WSU Box Office at (937) 775-2500 or visit wright.edu/ theatre-tickets.
Contact this contributing writer at firstname.lastname@example.org.