From the first note of the opening song In the Heights, the pace for this exhilarating journey into Washington Heights, one of New York’s most vibrant Latin-American neighbourhoods, is set. Propelled by the bouncy Latin score mixing hip-hop with pop and Spanish, the toe-tappingly good music is the masterpiece of Tony Award-winning composer-lyricist, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and is the glue that holds the story together.
Front and centre for much of the show is Usnavi (played by the talented Sam Mackay), a bodega owner with women and money woes that raps the show to life from the opening number. Dealing with real, everyday struggles, scriptwriter Quiara Alegria Hudes brings to life a vibrant neighbourhood battling with property prices, blackouts and economic stress, with a few romantic interests and energetic Latin dance numbers thrown in.
Sexy choreography from Drew McOnie and phenomenal vocals brings this vivid show together, with stand out performances from ex-Sugababe Jade Ewen as Usnavi’s love interest Vanessa, and Lily Frazer as Nina, a Stanford University student back home with the news she’s lost her scholarship and dropped out of school, whose soulful solo Breathe leaves us all wanting more – whilst Victoria Hamilton-Barritt adds comic relief as the vivacious, no-nonsense neighbourhood salon owner, Daniela.
A musical of assets, the storyline offers a taste of the American dream when Usnavi discovers he has sold a winning lottery ticket to one lucky neighbourhood resident that could truly turn life around in this suffering part of the city.
The explosive music, slinky-hipped dancing and heartfelt storyline make for an uplifting musical full of energy and community spirit, with an incredibly hard-working cast to top it off. As the final words ‘I’m home’ are sang out, we all feel a sense of home in this buzzing part of town you won’t want to leave when the lights go up.
Images: Johan Persson