From the Aisle
By Linda Armstrong
About Everyday People
There is an absolutely wonderful musical playing at 37 Arts in Manhattan and it goes by the name In The Heights. This musical does a brilliant job of portraying the very real, down-to-earth lives of Latinos that live in the Washington Heights area of Manhattan. This production bends over backwards to make sure the audience gets the feeling that this is a close-knit community where families are very much intertwined. People know each other’s business, not because they are being noisy, but because they genuinely care.
What is one of the amazing aspects of this musical is that it is really the brainchild of one man-Lin-Manuel Miranda. He conceived the musical, wrote the music and lyrics, and stars in it.
There is a little of everything in this production-the hardworking, struggling business owner; the beauty parlor owner who finds that she has to move her shop because the rents are too high; the college student who has good grades but is contemplating leaving school because she knows it’s a hardship on her parents to pay her tuition, and you have the bodega owner who took over the business after his parents died.
Each of the characters in this musical share their dreams, even the man who sells the icy out of the cart.
If you enjoy shows that are funny and heartwarming, then this show is definitely for you. And it’s appropriate for everyone in the family.
There are several things about In The Heights that are engaging, including the marvelous choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler, which brings out the passion in the fabulous Latin music that is played throughout the show. Alex Lacamoire and Bill Sherman really do a marvelous job on arrangements and orchestration, as does music coordinator Michael Keller.
In The Heights is directed by Thomas Kail and simply has a stellar ensemble cast. It’s truly a show you have to see and enjoy. And, while you’re watching it you will definitely notice the fantastic and heartwarming performance of Olga Merediz as Abuela Claudia, who portrays the role of the “Grandmother Type” on the block.
Talks About Mammy Role
Actress Capathia Jenkins is playing one of the most well-known African American actresses, Hattie McDaniel in (mis) UNDERSTANDING MAMMY: The Hattie McDaniel Story, at Theatre 5, located at 311 W 43rd Street, on the 5th floor, between 8th and 9th Avenues. Jenkins is excited to portray McDaniel but will only be doing the show through March 4th. What excited her about the role was showing the public the sides of this woman’s life that nobody knew about. McDaniel had many negative things that happened in her life and much occurred after she became the first African-American to receive an Oscar for “Gone With The Wind.”
Jenkins was fascinated with how strong a person McDaniel was, going on with her life and trying to be a cutup, even while the head of the NAACP at the time was trying to say that she was a shame to her own people. The production also shares the many bad marriages that McDaniel lived through.
While Jenkins has been doing the show for the past several weeks, she shared that after each performance audience members comment to her as to how much they learned about the life of McDaniel. In doing the research for the part, Jenkins was quick to share that she developed a great deal of respect and love for McDaniel. And though she admits that as an actress she could not bring herself to do the role that McDaniel did, she realizes that McDaniel did these roles because there wasn’t anything else available for African-Americans at that time. And Jenkins is the first to admit that actors today stand on the shoulders of people like the McDaniels of the world that laid the foundation.
For tickets to (mis)UNDERSTANDING MAMMY: The Hattie McDaniel Story call 212-247-2429.
If You Are In New Brunswick
Go See Glynn
Veteran actor Glynn Turman, who can presently be seen on episodes of The Wire is currently performing his autobiography Movin’ Man at Crossroads Theatre in New Brunswick, New Jersey. The production not only has this brilliant man as the writer and performer, it is also directed by “Mr. Black Theater Himself”-Woodie King, Jr., the founder of New Federal Theatre.
Turman’s show will play through March 4. This entire production is his chance to not only tell people about his blessed life, but about all those who helped him along the way. It’s a show he is utilizing to say thank you to people like Ruby Dee and Sidney Poitier and so many others, including Vinette Carole, who took him under her wing.
Anyone who has seen Turman onstage knows that anything he does should be experienced because he is a consummate professional. For ticket information visit www.CrossroadsNB.com.