IN THE HEIGHTS
King’s Cross Theatre, Goods Way, London, N1C 4UR.
‘In The Heights’ makes a return to the London stage after its sell-out run at The Southwark Playhouse last year, now setting the stage alight at the Kings Cross Theatre.
‘In The Heights’ is a musical rooted in the close-knit community of Washington Heights, Manhattan. A mainly Latino community made up of many beautiful and eclectic characters who live, work and support each other through their ever changing lives. With an award winning musical score that encompasses the salsa sound and the carnival spirit, anything is possible.
It is moving, exciting and above all, entirely captivating. The set is modest and at first glance not entirely magical. Red brick and rundown shop fronts, it’s certainly nothing to shout about. But with moving stairs, neon coffee cups and a pre-interval firework display, this cheeky, sassy and inventive world grabs your attention and holds you tight until the very end.
Often, compromises have to be made, but you won’t see that on this stage. The singing, the dancing and the acting are all impeccable. A real ensemble piece, replete with high-energy dance routines, choreographed by Drew McOnie; giving this story a heartbeat that brings the world of Washington Heights alive.
The Character of Usnavi narrates us through the story played with utter charm (and rapping skills I can only dream of) by Sam Mackay; Lily Frazer plays Nina with effortless beauty; Jade Ewan plays the sassy hairdresser Vanessa, with vocals that are as cool as the frozen fruit Piragua sold on the street and Victoria Hamilton-Barritt serves us up a comedy performance that is as hot as the sun; in the guise of Daniela, Vanessa’s heavily pregnant, no-nonsense boss.
However, as energetic and fun as this musical is, it is not with out its tender moments. Often those moments are between Nina and her parents, played wonderfully by David Badella and Josie Benson as they try to work out the future of their family business and the future of their beloved daughter. And the story of Abuela Claudia, played so warmly by Eve Polycarpou is a sure fire tearjerker.
Thematically we are never short of something to mull over, whether it be failure, robbery, death, love or friendship. This musical is about finding out who you are and where you belong and about having fun on the way, something Director Luke Sheppard has certainly taken in to account.
This is a show bursting at the seams with zest and vitality and a lot of heart. A most welcome return to the London stage.
www.intheheightslondon.com. 0844 871 7604.
Review by Ethan Chapples