With the musical phenomenon Hamilton still breaking records on Broadway and the clamber for tickets for it’s transfer to London set to start next month, it was with fresh eyes that I made the trip to the King’s Cross Theatre for the other celebrated offering by superstar composer Lin-Manuel Miranda and found the effervescent In the Heights still provides a unique and infinitely appealing alternative to other West End musicals.
Filling the cavernous performance space with colour and energy from the very first moment, this mostly new cast erupts onto the stage and immediately engages with the ‘Boreo’ by making Drew McOnie’s Olivier award winning choreography take flight.
We are invited to spend a couple of days in the life of the community of Washington Heights in New York and are given the opportunity to explore the impact of gentrification and the changing barriers faced by this very traditional enclave of society. The community spirit and closeness of family and friends are tested by the changing financial climate and the envy of their more affluent neighbours down the road in Manhattan is beautifully portrayed by Miranda’s verbal variations, which whether in dialogue or through the medium of rap, often feel Shakespearian with a deep exploration of each phrase.
Sam Mackay is utterly compelling as the narrator come hero of the Barrio Usnavi, with a charming swagger and earthy delivery. Sarah Naudi as Vanessa and Gabriella Garcia as Nina are both fabulously feisty and give powerful vocal performances, while Arun Blair-Mangat, as the lovable Benny is an exceptional addition to the cast, with a simply glorious voice. Damian Buhagiar completely holds your gaze with his cheeky Sonny brimming with youthful exuberance and Johnny Bishop as Graffiti Pete sparks off him with a very memorable dance performance.
It’s not all Hip-hop and part of Miranda’s genius is to infuse Latino rhythms and traditional musical theatre themes amongst the contemporary cadenzas.
This multi-award winning show is set to close in January 2017 and I would urge you to see it before its too late.
In the Heights is playing at the King’s Cross Theatre. If you would like any further details, you can visit the website intheheightslondon.com