This is a bit of a quick one, as In the Heights is ending its run in London after winning three Olivier Awards and running for two years. I’d wanted to check out Lin-Manuel Miranda (of a little known show called Hamilton fame) original work since it opened on Broadway back in 2008 so was super excited to be finally checking it out earlier this week.
The story, as the opening song suggests, followings a day in the life of the residents of Washington Heights in New York. Predominantly nominated by migrants from Central America, they are all facing various struggles. Usnavi (Michael Cortez) dreams of returning to the Dominican Republic, Nina (Gabriela Garcia) is incredibly bright but working two jobs has meant that she has had to drop out, Benny (Arun Blair-Mangat) wants to be allowed to date Nina, Vanessa (Sarah Naudi) needs a deposit to be able to escape from living with her alcoholic mother and Daniela (Aimie Atkinson) can no longer afford the lease on her salon.
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s score is just such fun, blending Latin sounds with traditional musical theatre and matched by great lyrics which blend in Spanish and also hint at the real genius to come in Hamilton. In the intimate Kings Cross Theatre setting, it is bought to vivid life by Luke Sheppard’s direction and Drew McOnie’s pretty jaw-dropping choreography, which is excellently bought to life by the insanely busy and talented ensemble.
The performances all around are incredibly strong; Michael Cortez is the understudy Usnavi and I’d be hard-pressed to be convinced that the ‘full-time’ guy is any better (plus Cortez actually looks like he could be from the Dominican Republic). He excellently taps into the humour and emotion of Usnavi, and is the real heart of the piece. Other shout-outs should got to Arun Blair-Mangat whose voice is great; David Bedella as Kevin, Nina’s father, who portrays his desperation to do right for his family really well; Aimie Atkinson as Daniela, who has pretty great stage presence and Stephanie Rojas, who plays the slightly dizzy Carla, but also features heavily in the ensemble dance sequences.
There are tickets available for its final few performances and I’d really recommend going, you can get more show details here.