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 spine-tingling 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.