In the Heights - Musical Review

If you have a free evening any time soon, take yourself off to the Kings Cross Theatre. Tucked tidily away somewhere behind the station, you’ll find yourself transported underground to the New York Subway - with the finest attention to detail, the foyer alone promises something fabulous, and the show doesn’t disappoint following the grand welcome.

Usnavy (Sam Mackay) sets the scene with rapped narration, which reappears throughout the show. It’s brilliant and brings US rap culture comfortably to the stage, sitting neatly between the sections of more traditional musical theatre style songs. We soon meet the other characters inhabiting the neighbourhood: Abuella Claudia: everybody’s grandma (Eve Polycarpou), Vanessa, the girl that dreams to escape the Heights (Jade Ewan) and the gloriously scandalous salon owner, Daniella (Victoria Hamilton-Barritt). Hamilton-Barritt is soon to go on maternity leave, but it’s commendable to see that her character has been adapted to acknowledge her baby bump, a line change here or there makes no difference to the original story whatsoever. If you can see her before she heads off on maternity leave, do try, she really does steal the show on more than one occasion. Strong ensemble work and an outstanding cast, makes even the non-speaking / smaller roles memorable, there is not one that lets the team down.

We arrive in the Queens neighbourhood in the Latino Quarter, at a time of change; and despite the years of hard work and sacrifice the family owned businesses are struggling as they are rapidly becoming priced out of their rents. Though set in NYC, the story of gentrification and the effect it has on the local residents of the area certainly translates to this city. I’ve seen it starting to happen in many places I’ve lived, Forest Hill, Peckham and most recently East Croydon. Just as these characters from Queens speak of the hipsters moving in and pushing them out, the same conversations are taking place in London right now.

Set design by Takis is well worth a mention. There are many moments that pass in an instant, but are so beautifully spectacular, they sit in your memory for the rest of the scene and beyond; light up coffee cups, a steaming bar, a firework display, and a scene lit entirely by mobile phones. The set captures the heart of Queens, and is used well - though a song sung from the top of two moving staircases, pushed around by actors on the ground throughout, is a little distracting, but still impressive.

The energy level is sensational and consistent throughout, I found myself on the edge of my seat, grinning as I got whipped up in to the whirlwind of Washington Heights. The tales of love, dreams, hardship and community, are plaited together and served with courage, soul and upbeat, thrilling hip-hop dance, which certainly all make this one to remember.

(c) Amie Taylor 2015 @spoonsparkle


In the Heights
Music and Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Directed by Luke Sheppard
Kings Cross Theatre (London)

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