It may be impossible to get tickets to the hip-hop phenomenon Hamilton on Broadway, but Northeast Ohio audiences can still see the next best thing right up the road at Beck Center for the Arts in Lakewood: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical In the Heights.
Composer/lyricist/actor Miranda, who has received many accolades for his groundbreaking Hamilton, brought In the Heights to Broadway when he was just 28, starring as lead Usnavi in the Tony Award-winning musical. His score won both a Tony and a Grammy.
At Beck Center, the Baldwin Wallace University musical theater program is co-producing the vibrant show, which features 23 BW students and two alumni Equity actors. The show, directed by Victoria Bussert, pops with hot salsa and hip-hop choreography by Gregory Daniels and excellent vocals.
Set in the Hispanic neighborhood of New York’s Washington Heights, the musical brings to life a street corner where close-knit neighbors scrape to make a living running a bodega, car and limousine service and beauty salon. Leading the cast is charismatic senior Ellis Dawson as Usnavi, the bodega owner who offers a vivacious rap introducing the barrio and who has a close relationship with its matriarch Abuela Claudia (Equity actress Jessie Cope Miller).
Memorable actors include the sweetly girlish Livvy Marcus as college-girl-come-home Nina; the likable Malik Victorian as her love interest Benny; the gorgeous, statuesque Christiana Perrault as beauty Vanessa; and hilarious Isabel Plana as sassy salon owner Daniela.
The onstage band led by David Pepin is killer but unfortunately, last weekend, it drowned out the singers and their lyrics in too many of the big numbers. These lyrics by Miranda are too good to be lost.
The most exciting and dramatic moments of the play occur in a club where the cast is salsa dancing on an extremely hot summer night, leading up to a scene of chaos (Fireworks) when a blackout occurs in the neighborhood.
The cast also excels in the quiet moments, including Equity actor Jared Leal’s Inutil, in which a father expresses his fears of not being able to provide for his family; and Alabanza, in which the neighborhood mourns the loss of one of its most beloved.
Tickets are very limited for Friday and Sunday; Saturday is sold out. Call 216-521-2540 Ext. 10 or see www.beckcenter.org.
Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or email@example.com. Like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kclawsonabj or follow her on Twitter @KerryClawsonABJ.