Lara Gregorians checks out the newest musical taking London by storm
Take a step into the Kings Cross Theatre, and be transported to the sizzling heat of Washington Heights: a small Latino neighbourhood in New York where anyone’s business is everyone’s business, and latin rhythms rule. In the Heights is a story about love, loss, and the struggles of a community in the face of raging rent and gentrification. From the Tony Award winning composer behind the hit Broadway musical, Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights brings a modern salsa groove and soulful sound to musical theatre that has been sorely missing.
The scene is set with Usnavi (Sam Mackay) who opens up his small bodega for the day, and kicks off the show rapping about everything from milk, to bills and girls. Mackay’s performance is the tight thread holding the show together, and his quick-paced rambles were delivered with a timing and flair you couldn’t help but groove along to. The rhythmic mix immediately grabs you from the get-go, providing something a bit different to the sounds of your average ballad-belting musical. Although, if that’s what you’re into, the charming Benny (Joe Aaron Reid) and Nina (Lily Frazer) provide the dose of lovers’ longing that pulls on all the right heart strings. The camaraderie between the characters is infectious, and each has an interesting story to tell.
For such a small space, the set itself was used wonderfully too. Designed by takis, the audience was placed right in the midst of the neighbourhood, sandwiched between the bodega, hair salon and car service. The intimacy was powerful – you felt as if the action was happening around you. Drew McOnie’s choreography was also fierce and full of power. Big dance numbers filled the space with an energetic hustle and bustle, and the salsa and hip-hop elements were executed with full force. Each dancer was wow-worthy, and their interactions throughout each scene boosted the story-telling power.
In the Heights isn’t a flawless production – awkward accents were a bit jarring, and poignant moments often came across slightly more comical than I feel intended. However, none of that could take away from the energy and enjoyment the production exudes. Striking a chord somewhere along the lines of West Side Story meets Step Up meets High School Musical, the show has something that almost any theatre-goer can enjoy. If you’re looking for a night full of fun and flair, with a dose of emotional angst for storytelling’s sake, In the Heights should be your next theatrical stop.
In the Heights is on at Kings Cross Theatre until October 2016
Under 25s can buy top price tickets (usually £49.50) for just £15 across all performances at www.intheheightslondon.com
Featured Image Credit: Johan Persson