Dayton Daily News

Didn’t get tickets to ‘Hamilton’? See ‘In the Heights’ instead

- Russell Florence Jr.

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

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 cincyshake­

‘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 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 theatre-tickets.

Contact this contributi­ng writer at

 ?? CONTRIBUTE­D/MIKKI SCHAFFNER ?? Lin-Manuel Miranda’s 2008 Tony Award-winning musical “In the Heights,” a love letter to New York City’s Washington Heights neighborho­od, continues through Feb. 17 at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.
CONTRIBUTE­D/MIKKI SCHAFFNER Lin-Manuel Miranda’s 2008 Tony Award-winning musical “In the Heights,” a love letter to New York City’s Washington Heights neighborho­od, continues through Feb. 17 at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.
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