In the Heights – REVIEW

Sam Mackay as Usnavi
Sam Mackay as Usnavi

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.

Jade Ewen (Vanessa), Victoria Hamilton-Barritt (Daniela) and Sarah Naudi (Carla)
Jade Ewen (Vanessa), Victoria Hamilton-Barritt (Daniela) and Sarah Naudi (Carla)

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.

The Tony Award-winning Broadway musical In the Heights recently extended its run at the King’s Cross Theatre and is booking until 3rd January 2016. Visit www.intheheightslondon.com to book tickets.

Images: Johan Persson

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