This show is colourful, authentic, poignant and wonderful, and with an incredibly talented cast, it's a shame to see it go.
In the last year, Lin-Manuel Miranda has gone from being a name known only to dedicated theatre fans, to being a household name. Although Hamilton has taken the world by storm, long before that was a little Tony Award winning musical called In The Heights. Having just closed at King’s Cross Theatre after 3 years of London performances, I was lucky enough to catch one of the show’s final shows, and my goodness, I am so glad that I did. In The Heights is, quite frankly, a masterpiece.
Set in the neighbourhood of Washington Heights in Manhattan, the show follows the lives of a largely Latin American community over the course of three days. Every person has a dream and everybody is working to get those dreams. It’s a story about family and community, it’s a story about sacrifice, and it’s a story that resonates with so many people, clear from the way in which the show has been received, and the fans who keep coming back for more. From Usnavi (Sam Mackay) who runs the bodega and just wants to get on and make enough to go back to Dominican Republic, to Nina (Gabriela Garcia), the neighbourhood’s daughter who has had to drop out of uni because she can’t afford tuition, to Vanessa (Sarah Naudi) who dreams of getting out, each and every character is so genuine.
The cast were all incredible, each one having such a beautifully thorough understanding of their characters, as well as stunning vocal and dancing ability. In particular, Gabriela Garcia was wonderful as Nina, and as a uni student who does see others who are struggling with finances, I believed her story completely. When she sang ‘Breathe’ I was holding my breath, when she sang ‘Everything I Know’, my heart broke. Also Arun Blair-Mangat was utterly charming as Benny Ramirez, the young aspiring businessman, who is also Nina’s love interest. I think I fell a little bit too in love with Benny, to be honest. Mind you, I say that these two were great, I could genuinely go into detail about each and every member of the cast and gush for days about wonderfully they portrayed the characters they were playing.
Of course, good actors are nothing unless they are given good material to work with, and these guys are truly blessed to be in this show. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s score transports Latin rhythms and Spanish language into the hip-hop beats of New York effortlessly. It’s catchy and utterly brilliant, and with lyrics that really exude life, it’s memorable. As well as this, the choreography team have done an awesome job, matching the fusion that Miranda creates in the score perfectly.
King’s Cross Theatre itself offers so many exciting opportunities for staging, and these guys utilised these as well as they can. With the audience sitting on old train platforms, the stage is quite literally on the old unused train tracks. This creates an immersive experience, with the cast often moving around up the stairs and through the audience.
It’s hard to say anything bad about the show. The closest I come to criticism is that everything gets very intense and crowded during the Act 1 finale, ‘Blackout’. However, I think that I felt overwhelmed by how much was going on, only because I was so invested and so pumped to see what happened next.
The cast and crew of In The Heights have every right to feel proud of what they achieved with their London show. It’s a real shame to see the show go. Here’s hoping that a UK tour is in the works… Seriously guys, “No para sigue sigue!”
In The Heights closed at King’s Cross Theatre on 8th January 2017. Read our introduction to show here.