Arts & Entertainment

How to Dance in Ohio: A Review

By Tais Soto-Vaca

Official Broadway Poster For "How To Dance In Ohio"
I had the fortune to see its Broadway debut on November 15 and was left in a state of shock; from the first line to the last bow, the whole audience was entranced by the story of seven young adults in Ohio.
How to Dance in Ohio is based on a 2015 documentary by the same name, which is available on HBO, and follows seven charismatic young adults with autism who live in Ohio and attend group therapy together.
The characters are as follows; Drew (Liam Pearce) who is finding what he truly wants for his collegiate future; Mel (Imani Rusell) who wants a promotion at work; Maredith (Madison Kopec) who is brand new to the group; Tommy (Connor Tague) who really wants to get his driver's license; Remy ( Desmond Luis Edwards) an aspiring influencer; Caroline (Amelia Fei) a true romantic and Jessica (Ashley Wool)  a dragon connoisseur. The musical tells the story of how their psychologist Dr Amigo (Caesar Samayoa); a recent divorcee, and his daughter Ashley (Crisitna Sastre); who is back from Juilliard after an injury, come up with a brilliant idea to help their clients open up; a Spring Formal.
They recount the ups and downs of the 100 days leading up to this rite of passage through brilliant songwriting and comical dialogue as we explore their deep interpersonal connections not only with each other but also with their family members. Notably, many lines, characters and major plot points come directly from the documentary adding a sense of realness to the show.
This show is big on inclusivity, with a whole scene in Spanish, an immigrant family struggling to find the balance of happiness and work to a young transgender teenager trying to provide for themselves; this show truly shows inclusivity and diversity in its story. In addition to that, there was care put into carefully portraying autism; through casting autistic actors, having leaflets with links to autism awareness sites, cool-down rooms for anyone overstimulated by the show, and more. In a unique way this musical sheds light on how media and society portray/discuss autism and how dramatized depictions can lead to harmful stereotypes. It leads us to consider whether the media is, at times, untruthfully depicting the lives of people with autism and how hostile society is to neurodivergent individuals as a cause of these depictions.
But this musical is not only social commentary, it is also the relatable story of friendships, romances and the fear of the future.
Truthfully, the only limitation How to Dance in Ohio has is its venue.
The Belasco Theatre, though beautiful, has huge poles and rails blocking the view of the stage; particularly from the Mezzanine. And with most of the songs taking place downstage, you have to wiggle around in your seat for a semi-clear view. One could also scrutinize its fast-paced story-telling; I will admit I too was lost as to why the story went so quickly during the first act. Yet I found it contributed to heightening tensions and excitement around the Spring Formal and other conflicts these characters faced. In addition, its fast-paced rhythm may have been inspired by the documentary which moves quite quickly throughout.
This is truly a show for everyone, it has the perfect balance of romance, emotional songwriting, hilarity, and relatable/complex characters. I encourage everyone to watch it while it is still running; I’m sure you will not regret it!