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The Play’s The Thing: Put your extra day to good use this leap year

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It's also the political season - isn't it always? - so let me remind you of some words of wisdom from Dwight D. Eisenhower, president in the 1950s and World War II general, in case you have forgotten. "In the councils of government we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes."I've got another good one for you from Bill Bradley, former candidate for president and former basketball player for the New York Knicks, when the Knicks were really the Knicks, but we have a gal here who writes about politics and I don't want to occupy room on her dish.Okay, if it's theater stuff you want, my first wife and I - my only wife, by the way - recently got back from a few days in the City. That's something we've been doing since 9/11, spending vacation money in our hometown, staying at a Midtown hotel, seeing a few shows, dining at some fine restaurants and seeing the sights in what we natives know to be the Center of the Universe. Lots of foreigners (mainly the legal kind) are visiting Manhattan, since the euro is worth almost 50 percent more than the dollar and the British pound double.I've got a new show for you to put on your must-see list: "In The Heights," a musical with a Latino and hip-hop flavor, which I predict will be as big a hit as "Rent." Now, that's a lot for me to say, since I tend to favor plays and musicals from Broadway's golden age. You know, the ones with music you can sing and words you can't forget. But this one is the real deal, especially to be appreciated by the youth of America.If you know some Spanish, even better. And if you've been to Washington Heights, better still. "In The Heights" is now in previews at the Richard Rodgers Theatre (West 46th Street) and opens on March 9. Before that, however, it had a successful run Off Broadway at 37 Arts on the Far West Side.The show was conceived by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who not only wrote the music and lyrics but also stars in it. He started working on it when he was a student at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, so obviously his college education wasn't wasted. You older folks will also get a kick out of this show, and you'll even understand it. There's some terrific dancing, dramatic lighting and at least a couple of show-stopping numbers. The lead character's first name is Usnavi - see "In The Heights" and find out how he got it.In the meantime, "The Moonlight Room," the latest from my own Outrageous Fortune Company in its 15-year history, opens on March 7 at Queens Theatre in the Park. Check it out, and please make good use of your time on Feb. 29. You'll have to wait another four years for the next one.Contact Ron Hellman at RBH24@Columbia.edu.

Updated 6:58 pm, October 10, 2011
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