In The Heights - 16 October 2015 Review
This show has everything you could ever want from a musicalWhilst Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical Hamilton takes Broadway by storm, his other smash-hit Tony Award-winning musical In the Heights has come to the King’s Cross Theatre for a well-deserved run in the West End. Set in one of Manhattan’s most lively and diverse communities, In the Heights draws similarities from musicals such as Rent and West Side Story in terms of style and delivery. Having said that, it is entirely unlike anything currently on the West End and audiences are flocking to this “hip hop musical”.
Upon entering the theatre you are immediately immersed in Washington Heights, with bricked flats, shops and smoke piping out from under the railway, which is in place for The Railway Children. The design by Takis is one of the best elements of the show, with most of the set on wheels, ensuring transitions between each scene are seamless. This keeps the show running fluidly without a second of pause or blackouts – important for a show of such high energy.
At times, the book by Quiara Alegría Hudes is predictable, but the choreography by Drew McOnie and music and lyrics by Manuel-Miranda keep the audience on their toes. From beautiful ballads to raps delivered with perfect diction, this show has everything you could ever want from a musical. The choreography is absolutely outstanding and the whole cast perform with every ounce of energy they have. Luke Sheppard’s direction ensures a fast-paced show that is directed to every individual audience member in the traverse setting, which allows for a more intense experience than most proscenium London theatres.
The cast of In the Heights is one of the most tight-knit ensembles currently on the West End with a connection on stage that is electrifying. With hugely diverse casting, you really do believe that this is a community that has come together as a family. Each performer is astonishingly talented and it is a delight to watch a cast that is so enthusiastic and proud of the show they have produced. As an audience member, you become invested in each character and truly care about the outcome of each storyline.
Sam Mackay as the shop-owning protagonist Unsavi is an absolute delight to watch, delivering his part in a way that has the audience emotionally invested right from the beginning. Another stand-out performer has to be Victoria Hamilton-Barritt as the heavily pregnant salon owner Daniela, who is a hugely entertaining performer with sultry, husky vocals, as well as Joe Aaron Reid who wins our hearts as the adorable Benny. Vocals across the board are phenomenal, particularly from Jade Ewen and Lily Frazer who play Vanessa and Nina. Both belted their hearts out and it was very impressive.
The success of In the Heights lies in the fact that it is such a refreshing twist on the current musicals in the West End. The show addresses important social issues whilst being comic and surprisingly relatable, completely sweeping you away into a world full of heart, song and dance. A wonderfully vibrant and seductive show, In the Heights will have the entire audience on their feet.
Reviewed by Susannah Rose Martin.
16 October 2015, King's Cross Theatre