Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Review: In The Heights at the King's Cross Theatre

In The Heights
King's Cross Theatre
Reviewed on Tuesday 13th October 2015

Jade Ewen
Last May In The Heights set theatreland on fire when it made its UK premiere at the Southwark Playhouse. 

Seventeen months later Luke Sheppard's production has returned to London, playing in rep with The Railway Children at the newly built King's Cross Theatre. 

In The Heights is quite simply a musical like no other. With his new show Hamilton currently revolutionising Broadway, it seems audiences on both side of the pond can't get enough of Lin-Manuel Miranda. His writing hits you like a breath of fresh air and makes an almighty impression.

In The Heights, which premiered off-Broadway in 2007 before moving to the Great White Way for a triumphant three year run, provides a snapshot into the lives of an ensemble of characters living in the Washington Heights. Sacrifices are made, dreams are achieved and hearts are at risk of being broken. In The Heights is brought to life with energy and culture, introducing characters who aren't usually represented in musical theatre.

Casts of shows often claim to be like 'one big happy family', but whilst watching In The Heights you truly believe the unbreakable connection shared amongst the company. From beginning to end I sat in complete awe of every element of the production, it is theatrical bliss. In The Heights is a vibrant show which has been helmed with incredible love and passion. 

The concept of hip hop and Dominican Latin music meeting musical theatre may sound bonkers, but works an absolute treat. After seeing the show last year I became addicted to the cast recording - the fusion of these vastly different influences creates an entirely new sound for musical theatre. Lyrically the show is sublime; some of the outpouring of emotion is incredibly powerful.

At the Southwark Playhouse the audience were seated along three sides of the theatre, whereas at the King's Cross Theatre the audience are seated upon two opposing platforms. Sheppard's direction is outstanding; the piece hasn't simply been resurrected, instead scenes have been reworked and refocused whilst musical numbers have been reimagined to suit the new layout. 

The amount of thought and detail put into Drew McOnie's choreography is astounding. McOnie allows each cast member to perform with remarkable individuality and personal flair with the company numbers fully embracing the entire space. There is so much going on that it's impossible to know where to look; no matter where you're sat you'll witness a personal experience. 

Victoria Hamilton-Barritt
Several cast members have reprised their performances alongside a handful of new faces. Amongst the new cast Lily Frazer brings some raw vocal talent to her portrayal of Nina alongside charismatic Broadway actor Joe Aaron Reid as Benny. There are also some top notch vocals from Jade Ewen as Vanessa whilst Cleve September gives a stand out performance as Sonny.

I can't imagine In The Heights without Sam Mackay who brings a great amount of heart and soul to his portrayal of Usnavi, the role Lin-Manuel Miranda originated. Josie Benson's Camila is feistier than ever, her rendition of 'Enough' is just sublime. 

The star of the show is the incomparable Victoria Hamilton-Barritt as gossiping salon owner Daniela. She gives a scene stealing performance; every time she was onstage I couldn't take my eyes off her. Hamilton-Barritt - who is very heavily pregnant - has such effortless comic timing and steals most of the evening's biggest laughs. Her powerful vocal tones are to die for, but most importantly she goes above and beyond to convey her sheer dedication to the piece. Hamilton-Barritt is an absolute star.

In The Heights has wide appeal. Nothing beats looking around a theatre and seeing people of all ages from all sorts of backgrounds fully engrossed in a piece of theatre. The King's Cross Theatre is the perfect venue; there is an exciting vibe in the Washington Heights-themed bar which is open till late with live music and DJs playing after certain performances. 

In The Heights is back with a bang and better than ever. You, and everybody you know, have to see this show.

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

In The Heights is currently booking at the King's Cross Theatre until Sunday 3rd January 2016.
Please visit for further information and tickets.

Read our interviews with David BedellaVictoria Hamilton-Barritt

Photo Credit: Johan Persson

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