Theatre blogger West End Wilma reports from her latest visit to see In The Heights at King’s Cross Theatre, London.
The 2008 Broadway musical In The Heights played for three years between 2008 – 2011, and won four Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Original Score and Best Choreography. The show transferred to London’s Southwark Playhouse in 2014 where it received an abundance of five star reviews from critics and online publications. The show transferred to the new King’s Cross Theatre in October 2015 where it currently shares a home with The Railway Children. The show is up for four Olivier Awards this year including Autograph Sound Award for Outstanding Achievement in Music and MasterCard Best New Musical.
Lin-Manuel Miranda (music and lyrics) wrote In The Heights whilst at University in 1999. It was then adapted and expanded on for Broadway. The show tells the story of a Washington Heights community, in New York’s Manhattan. Poor and desolate, the residents of this mostly Latin area are struggling to get by in the head of New York summer. Abuela Claudia is old and tired after raising Usnavi and his cousin Sonny but her luck changes when she wins $96,000 on the lottery. At first she keeps this to herself but eventually shares the news that she is in the money and splits it three ways with Usnavi and Sonny.
Kevin and Camilla run a local taxi firm but run it into the ground by having to pay for their daughter Nina’s schooling in the hope that she can get a better life. Sassy Daniella is having to close her hair salon and move it downtown where the rent is more affordable and this is going to affect many of the other residents lives as they are workers in these places.
By the end of act 1, I thought I pretty much had the plot sussed out. A down and out community, struggling to survive, when the grandmother figure comes in to a lot of money and saves the day by helping everyone out financially (because that’s what communities do). I hoped the second half wouldn’t be as predictable as I was thinking and hoped there would be a twist to keep me in suspense. Sadly, for me, Act 2 felt quite removed from the first half and it didn’t work out at all how I imagined. In fact, it felt a bit like watching a totally different show!
There is no doubt that In The Heights features some amazing choreography and huge dance numbers, well executed in the King’s Cross Theatre. Stand out performances come from Jocasta Almgill (as Vanessa), and Phillipa Steffani (as Daniella), both understudies and Lily Frazer (Nina) and Eve Polycarpou who give great vocals and some brilliant acting.
Musically too, In The Heights has a fresh, new vibe and is unlike any other show that London has to offer right now with its rap, carnival-infused style.
In The Heights has had an abundance of five star reviews since its opening and although I may’ve been a little too late to the party, this shows carnival flair is sure to captivate many theatre goers.
In The Heights is currently showing at King’s Cross Theatre until 30 October 2016, book now at Ticketmaster.co.uk.