In the Heights

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  • Musicals
Critics' choice
3 Love It
© Johan Persson
© Johan Persson

Antoine Murray-Straughan (Graffiti Pete)

© Johan Persson

Cleve September (Sonny) and Lily Frazer (Nina)

© Johan Persson

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

© Johan Persson

Jade Ewen (Vanessa)

© Johan Persson

Sam Mackay (Usnavi)

© Johan Persson

Sam Mackay (Usnavi)

King's Cross Theatre , King's Cross Thursday December 3 2015 - Sunday April 10 2016

This hip fringe musical makes a joyous transfer

The hottest ticket on Broadway right now is ‘Hamilton’, a hip hop musical about the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton in which cabinet meetings are staged as epic rap battles. Its creator, Lin-Manuel Mirando, is being hailed as the most electrifying force in musical theatre for a decade.

Too bad we’re in London. But some of the buzz has rebounded on this UK production of Mirando’s earlier, 2008 show, the Tony and Grammy-winning ‘In the Heights’. A rap-meets-salsa musical set in the Latino community of Manhattan’s Washington Heights, it remains as colourful, refreshing and full of Puerto Rican zing as a frozen fruit Piragua slurped between lovers on the sidewalk.

While Quiara Alegria Hudes’s book remains curiously gritless, the transfer from Southwark Playhouse to King's Cross Theatre does bring something. You enter the traverse, with its single-street set, via the train tracks of main resident show ‘The Railway Children’. There’s a palpable sense of curvaceous Latin spirit straining against narrow urban confines – and that’s before you factor in Drew McOnie’s vigorously sexy choreography and the microscopic dresses.

At the show’s heart is Sam Mackay’s Usnavi, a Bodega owner who dreams of returning to his parents’ birthplace in the Dominican Republic. His chatty raps take sudden flight in the syncopated slipstream of the Latin numbers. But when Vanessa struts over for coffee (‘very sweet, little bit of cinnamon’) he’s lost for words.

In the Heights’ is really a soap opera. Themes of immigration, heritage and gentrification play second sax to hope, home and young love, and cheesey metaphors abound. There are sunrises and sunsets, a heatwave and a power cut, and fireworks at the interval kiss. But you’re irresistibly caught up in the comings, goings and blazing interactions of the individual characters, through to David Bedella’s conflicted patriarch and his fearsome wife (during her solo, Josie Benson manages to stamp two heels at the same time).

But on press night it’s Victoria Hamilton-Barritt, as Vanessa’s melodramatic boss Daniela, who provides the defining image. Heavily pregnant in real life and still working the bodycons, she hurls a leg over the top of one of two freewheeling fire escapes and has at the high note with everything she’s got. This is musical theatre bursting with new life.

Venue name: King's Cross Theatre
Address: King's Cross Theatre
Cornder of King's Boulevard and Goods Way
King's Cross
Transport: Tube: King's Cross
Price: £22, £18 concs. Runs 2hrs 30mins

Average User Rating

4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:13
  • 4 star:6
  • 3 star:4
  • 2 star:4
  • 1 star:0
4 people listening
Markella S
1 of 1 found helpful

Nice, uplifting, easy on the mind. Guaranteed to put a smile on your face after the performance. It's very energetic with 2-3 storylines running that are guaranteed to keep you interested. 

Michael M
1 of 1 found helpful

Great performances from a talented cast. The show is well paced with an interesting story line weaving together entertaining song and dance. High energy, there is no lull in the proceedings. I highly recommend this show.

Kevin H
1 of 1 found helpful

What an amazing night ! The choreographies were absolutely amazing and made me want to start salsa classes. A lot of songs were catchy. The storyline was not too cheesy and I really enjoyed having this mix of cultures in such a small and well studied and used space. It was also a very original setting and the whole show reflected the amount of effort, determination and work the whole of this musical crew has put behind. Congratulations for this fresh, tonic, spicy, energetic and wonderful evening !

Asya K
1 of 1 found helpful

Wonderful show, great energy, wonderful dancing and lovely singing! I enjoyed every moment.

Lisa B
1 of 1 found helpful

Thought this was brilliant. Being that close to the cast was excellent, especially during the chorus parts. The singing was absolutely fantastic, there was one song by Nina close to the beginning which didn't get as much of a clap as it deserved because it was so mesmerising. Thought that the whole cast did a great job and they were clearly loving being on stage together which makes such a difference to some of the long running musicals. I'm not a great musical lover but this was upbeat, modern and brilliantly performed, i'm booking tickets to go again! Also didn't notice any issue with the accents, but i'm no New Yorker. Definitely a go see production.

Dean L
1 of 1 found helpful

A very good and well balanced show. The performances, script, stage and delivery were all excellent and overall was a highly energetic, rhythmic and engaging performance. It's also very different to what is available in London's West End in a very positive way. Highly recommended.

dominique B
1 of 1 found helpful

It was amazing! The choreography was impressive, the music made me want to dance with the ensemble (who were insane) and the songs were sung well by all. I enjoyed the storyline, it was amusing and insightful. I loved it and wish there were more productions like this one!

sam j
1 of 1 found helpful

It was refreshing to see a well-directed production about a minority community, and the show was vibrant. The actors were very talented. But I have one major problem: the story takes place amidst a summer heat wave near American Independence day (4th July) -- hence the characters wearing short shorts and skimpy clothing. But this central fact got lost in the direction and performance. 

So after the show, many male punters said they liked the show including the "hot Latin women" in their "sexy revealing clothing". And review after review, like this one ("slinky-hipped production") mentions stereotyped adjectives like "sexy", "steaming", "sensual" etc. 

It is a show taking place in summer, amidst a community with no doubt a complex history and culture. But unfortunately, audiences come away satisfying their stereotypes of "sexy Latins."

Gabriel S
1 of 1 found helpful

I saw this production last week and thought it was one of the most refreshing productions I have seen in a long time. I thought the casting was authentic and the production values were second to none. Every role was cast perfectly and I loved it so much I've just booked to see it again.

2 of 3 found helpful

Hugely energetic and enjoyable production at the very atmospheric King's Cross Theatre.  Fantastic music and some excellent performances (beyond one or two characters, I didn't have a problem with the accents but I'm no expert) - I'm not usually a musical fan but I would happily recommend this to anyone.

Polly R
2 of 4 found helpful

I enjoyed the production values, but the American accents were often dodgy, and sometimes AWFUL. Some of the actors attempted a New York Latino accent, but within a few minutes, devolved into stereotype. This lack of attention detracted from the show's authenticity. Would it have been so difficult to find more American actors?


As two middle aged ladies, we wished we had bought some young people along with us to enjoy this amazing, vibrant, well sung, well choreographed, well......brilliant show. Cannot recommend highly enough.

Tatiana N
Staff Writer

not too original story line - just people going to chase American dream, Parents doing sacrifices for their kids, poor kid that has a brain and goes to a awesome Uni etc etc ... nothing originally really. I did fancy the set, it's original and different from your normal theatre. If you're into latin music (which i am)  you'll have a fun night i guess but if you don't i wouldn't recommend it really! Not a wow effect at all but still better than Cats ;) 

Florian P

Amazing show, one of the best I saw in London. It's the excellent idea to put the stage in the middle. Don't expect to go in a proper theater, it's more underground. You must like street music and dance (Hip Hop, Rap...) otherwise you won't like the show.


In the Heights is a fun, energetic and uplifting show that left me wanting to learn how to salsa and how to rap. The cast are all very talented triple threats, in particular Victoria Hamilton-Barritt, who was heavily pregnant when I saw it, is hilarious and stole the show for me. Created by Lin-Manuel Mirando, the guy behind the smash hit on Broadway, Hamilton, this has the same rap style and lyrical feel to the story. I felt like it could have stood to be a little shorter, not least becuase Kings Cross Theatre is not the most comfortable place to sit for three hours! Really worth catching this, especially if you like the sound of a telenovela brought to life. 


I can quite honestly say that if you watch this fantastic show you will not be disappointed. It is one of the stand out fringe shows this year and I would even put it in the same A* list as the more expensive West End shows currently out there.

The Kings Cross theatre is the perfect backdrop, the waiting area and bar has been transformed into Latina style festival speakeasy with reasonably priced drinks and bard snacks. To get to the theatre itself, you pass along train tracks :) all fun !

The singing of the cast is absolutely cracking and every song is memorable, mesmerizing, emotional and guaranteed to make you laugh and weep.

I loved every second of it, I even cried !


Amazing, is the most beautiful musical I ever see, I jus a wow. Was really a Wonderful show and everything was perfect. Was a pleasure to be there.


brilliant, a modern love story being told in a really engaging manner with an ultra talented cast. I'd highly recommend seeing this

Ayesha B

This show does not disappoint! We were ready to go out dancing after it. I absolutely loved the energy and colorfulness of the performance. It's at Kings Cross theatre which is a lovely thearte and makes a nice change from some of the normal west-end ones. I also liked how the performance took place in the middle of the audience seated either side. Go and see it before it goes! 

Alex H

Kings Cross Theatre on 05/10/2015 - 

Excellent choreography and a tuneful band make it enjoyable at times but a weak plot and average songs combined with varying vocal ability and some atrocious accents undermine this musical. I can imagine the Broadway production packed with actors from PR and the Dominican Republic giving some much needed credibility. The vocal work is patchy, ranging from excellent in the case of Benny and Sonny, to downright awful in the case of Kevin. Nina and Vanessa are competent but rely too heavily on the sound engineer to give them a lift with judicious amounts of reverb. Usnavi performs his spoken word sections with aplomb and is likeable. The cast try hard with what they have been given, however, the songs themselves are not world beaters and I didn't leave the theatre humming any of the tunes. The dance sections are a different matter, all the performers move well and the choreography is energetic and at times acrobatic. This kept me from leaving at the interval but unfortunately isn't enough to make me recommend the show to others.

Luciana T

The storyline was ordinary, the acting was bad, the songs were annoying, the singing was the only part that was ok. Had to leave just after the first half as it was too painful. The set up (Kings Cross Theatre) was good though. I would not recommend it.

Thuy S

Energetic performance. Mostly excellent music but maybe a bit too much rap. All in all very enjoyable to watch. Would recommend.

Ignacio R

Great musical and nice surprise. Hugely energetic and entertaining. Nothing bad to say about it and can't understand why someone would be so fussy about the accents, who cares? It doesn't really matter and it does not affect the story or anything else... I totally recommend


A nice musical to spend a lovely evening. The set design was somehow plain, the songs weren't so memorable and the choreography was exactly what it was expected/break dance throughout the whole show. All the actors were excellent but I wasn't impressed at all by the story. I would recommend it only if you are fan of musicals and have already seen all the popular ones.


l enjoyed it, it was a great refreshing musical. l don't understand how people can give it 3 or 2 stars just because accents were not American enough? Jokes. Look at the entertainment value, at talents of people performing. Great singers. Great dancing. Story - yeah it was cheesy and obvious but in a middle of gray October we got some Latino heat on Saturday night in London! 

O. Gordon
0 of 1 found helpful

I have never been wild about musicals. I find story telling through multiple songs (individual songs have their own story arc) can damage both the narrative and end up leaving the song lyrics bland or absurd. In The Heights does not escape this. The addition of rap works well and helps keep the narrative on track. Sam Mackay does a great job of keeping the rhythm punchy and story audible, which could be quite tricky given all the the action happening on stage. Some of the more comedic characters add a wonderful lightness and are clear crowd favourites. The choreography is tight, the set design works well and the ensemble do a good job of keeping the energy up. The score is well put together and performed with gusto. 

I couldn't help shake the feeling I'd seen it before but this is purely down to the story arc most musicals tend to have. Some of the acting could be tightened up but as a whole, the show is perfectly watchable. It may have won a few Tony awards in 2008 but it does come across as a little dated. If you love musicals, add another star.

Jose R
0 of 2 found helpful

It was a rousing production with wonderful singers and dancers in the cast. But the very wandering American accents made it very obvious that none of the cast (aside from one) was American. 

New York raised Puerto Rican and Dominican Americans from Washington Heights have a range of accents, but NONE of these accents was reflected in this production. They hired a cultural consultant, and an accent coach, but that didn't seem to help. Victoria Hamilton-Barritt's accent was particularly disruptive to hear.

For any New Yorkers or American Latinos watching, hearing the actors speak was painful. Every actor really tried, but their accents wandered all over the place. This made it very very unbeleivable. I know it's a musical and not a documentary. But if you go through the trouble to pay money to a cultural and accent coach, and make the effort to get other cultural nuances right, it would help to make the accents beleivable too. Is that too much to ask?