BWW Review: IN THE HEIGHTS lights up Cincinnati Playhouse In The Park
Lights up on Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park as "Hamilton" creator Lin Manuel Miranda's "In the Heights" plays now through Feb. 17. "In the Heights" tells the story of a Latin-American community in Washington Heights. Between businesses starting to slow down and close up shop, a dramatic heatwave, a homecoming, and a tragedy that strikes the barrio, there's lots of change and challenges for the characters to overcome throughout the musical.
Usnavi, (Ryan Alvarado) the owner of a bodega in the barrio, sets up the story and introduces the characters by rapping, in classic Miranda fashion. Alvarado has sky-rocketing energy from his first entrance, and never loses it throughout the production. He has flawless diction and immediately gets the audience rooting for him with his attempts to woo the babe of the barrio, Vanessa (Stephanie Gomérez). While both characters are interested in each other, they have different end goals. Vanessa dreams of getting out of the barrio and moving downtown, while Usnavi dreams of getting back to the Dominican Republic. The audience sees the two try and repeatedly miss throughout the show while pulling for them to get together in the end. Alvarado and Gomérez have an entertaining and playful chemistry that is easy and enjoyable to watch.
The other love story in the musical is between the barrio's pride and joy, Nina Rosario (Sophia Macías), and her father's dispatch employee Benny (David Kaverman). Nina has just come home from college and has some unfortunate, and slightly catastrophic news to share with her family. She finds Benny running the radio at her dad's dispatch service. The two reconnect and sparks fly. Macías is a true star and steals the show with her golden-throated belt, and incredibly honest and raw acting. The audience gets to see her true star potential when she takes the stage singing "Breathe," where she explains the struggle of coming home and feeling like she has let the entire community down. The song has quite the range and is by no means an easy tune to sing, but Macías makes it seem effortless. She continues to impress throughout the show, leaving the audience in chills after each of her songs. Kaverman pairs perfectly with Macías, which makes for some dynamite duets between the two.
If these stellar performances aren't enough, the ensemble is dancing the fiercest choreography to hit a Cincinnati stage in a while. William Carlos Angulo, a veteran "In the Heights" choreographer, perfectly mixes the hip hop and latin fever themes in the dancing, and the ensemble executes it with such passion and ferocity. UJ Mangune opens the show with a 540 jump that sets the tone for the intense choreography that erupts onstage. Ensemble member/Associate Choreographer/Dance Captain extraordinaire, Courtney Arango is the performer to watch. She feels every movement into the depths of her soul, hits every beat with fierce intensity, and overall works every chance she gets to shine.
You don't have to be wishing you won the lotto to visit the barrio! Cincinnati Playhouse is offering a block of $10 rush seats only on Tuesdays throughout the run. For other ticket inquiries visit cincyplay.com or call the box office at (513) 345-2242.