In The Heights is a mind-blowing explosion of colour, comedy, stunning Latin dance and sharp, witty script, all the while infused with dynamic hip-hop and incredible vocals. A true jaw-dropping spectacular, our evening begins by descending down the genuine subway steps to an old King’s Cross railway track. The platform has been converted into a New York subway style waiting room, with a station master selling popcorn and sweets, a bar and speakeasy-style seating. When our corresponding ‘platforms’ are called, we head into the theatre space, which means crossing part of the old railway track, puffs of smoke emitting from the sidewalk, adding to the quirky subway ambiance.
The set depicts a community street in Washington Heights, and the whole performance space is profile theatre – we as an audience are sat on risers either side of the playing space, whilst the actors are in the long, narrow centre space and expertly play to both the left and right sides. This is a wonderful option for staging, considering the given space is a converted railway track (it’s worth noting that the newly built King’s Cross Theatre was built especially for staging The Railway Children).
Nothing can quite prepare you for the burst of the onstage spectacle with the opening number ‘In The Heights’. The dancers are simply dazzling, the enigmatic Sam Mackay as Usnavi capturing us from the very first verse of clever wordplay. Part rap, part hip-hop and all the while infused with Latin flavour, by the end of the first number the audience are hooked – it’s completely clear we are in for a wild night. Lily Frazer as the young runaway Nina is truly one to watch, her vocals are just beautiful and effortless. Jade Ewan (formerly of the Sugababes) stars as the absolutely stunning Vanessa – she is not only a beauty to behold, but boasts impressive vocals and is a truly talented dancer too. Two stand-out performances of the night come from Josie Benson as Camila (‘Enough’) and David Bedella as Kevin (‘Inutil’) – both actors are genuinely believable as the concerned parents of the wayward Nina. The handsome Joe Aaron Reid is exceptional as Benny, and Victoria Hamilton-Barritt as Daniela had us laughing every time she was on stage with her comedic timing and charismatic presence. There is clearly talent in absolute abundance on the stage, from the ensemble of extremely skilled hip-hop dancers to the main characters, all with stunning voices and charisma by the truckload.
The second half is every bit as mind-blowing as the first, but it’s during the second half we get to see a deeper and more emotional layer of the characters. It’s nice to see the dynamic of the script take us through the touching and sensitive moments of the story too, which makes the huge ensemble numbers stand out even more. The fact that we are so close to all the action, right at eye-level with the actors, can only be a wonderful thing. Since we are literally dancing in our seats the whole way through, the audience participation moment at the end where we all get to ‘groove’ is certainly welcome. After rapturous applause we leave through the converted platform waiting room, which has now been turned into a Latin infused party, complete with colourful lightbulbs which have now descended from the ceiling, mood lighting and a DJ spinning the tracks – nobody leaves without stopping for a dance.
With the truly dazzling and smart music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, it’s really not hard to see how In The Heights has won four Tony Awards, and scores of other prestigious awards to boot. The original and fantastic choreography by Drew Mconie and stellar direction by Luke Sheppard has surely secured In The Heights for an immensely successful run. It is most recommended to grab one of these ‘gold-dust’ tickets as soon as you can, and experience the magic for yourself – it really does have to be seen to be believed.
Review by Louise Czupich
Welcome to Washington Heights, where life’s a struggle but the streets are jumping to the irresistible rhythms of love, passion, hopes and dreams. This smash-hit, Tony Award-winning musical is a joyously uplifting tale of young love in a community on the brink of change, set in one bustling neighbourhood where everyone knows everybody, and the breeze carries the sweet sounds of three generations of music.
Back to spice up London following its hugely acclaimed, sell-out season at the Southwark Playhouse, In The Heights is a thrilling evening of unforgettable songs and amazing choreography infused with the scorching rhythms and vibrant energy of a Manhattan heatwave. A word-of-mouth sensation on Broadway that had audiences coming back time and time again, this life-affirming story will enthral and delight audiences of all ages.
In The Heights
King’s Cross Theatre