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 Miranda, 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 Miranda’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.
Average User Rating
4.1 / 5
- 5 star:25
- 4 star:14
- 3 star:4
- 2 star:4
- 1 star:2
brilliant, a modern love story being told in a really engaging manner with an ultra talented cast. I'd highly recommend seeing this
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.
We got really cheap tickets for In The Heights at the King’s Cross Theatre and decided to give it a go.The theatre is really interesting as set-up goes.Regardless of how much you pay you will always have a good view of the stage as it is a small and cosy venue, so the cheapest tickets were are not a problem and offer great views.
The play was a big surprise! It is vibrant, energetic and full of colour. The music was excellent and the choreographies were absolutely amazing! It made me want to stand up from my seat to dance! They cleverly mixed the cast skills with a great use of space, lighting and sound. Overall a great experience! Would definitely watch it again and I am even listening to the soundtrack these days!
Get there before the show. The bar at the entrance plays really cool music to set up the atmosphere and has fairly priced drinks and food!
With only 10 rows of seating on both sides of the stage, everyone is up close to the performers. David Badella deserved his Oliver Award. Good singing, acting and dancing throughout. Excellent story line.
Took the family to see this last night 16.1.16. We all loved it. I've got teenage kids (boy and a girl) both thought it was awesome. High energy from the start. Whole cast were excellent. Great dancing singing and the acting was superb. Thanks for a great night.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 !
Energetic performance. Mostly excellent music but maybe a bit too much rap. All in all very enjoyable to watch. Would recommend.
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.
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!
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."
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.
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?
I saw in the Heights in the summer with my daughter all seats are great views . We were lucky and received an upgrade to front rows. This is an amazing show with a dedicated professional cast . We loved it . Same theatre as the railway children which was also amazing . Ticket prices very reasonable thankyou
I loved it. I have been to loads of plays and musicals over the years, this is more enjoyable an experience than all, other than perhaps les Mis. Go see it, leave your stuffiness behind you, if you are under 60 you will find something in it that will grasp your soul!
Very nice show ! So colorful and energic ! the storyline was interesting and not only "happy", we were 2 Frenchs and it wasn't too hard to understand. Go see it !
This was especially enjoyable as I attended university in Puerto Rico and I was born in new York. It compares in spirit very favorably to " West Side Story"al though I never saw it performed on stage.I do frequently mention that Natalie Wood was my favorite actress most times I am asked especially recently. Cuba which may be more relivent very recently became accessible to my fellow bilingual Florida resident's without retiring through Canada or Haiti because you have no relatives there.p.s an anecdote other bilingual, s may appreciate the most my stepmother of Spanish descents did once state she had to go into the kitchen to cook the chicken "
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
Performance Friday 26/003/2016 - Please dont waste your money on front row seats as I did . Awful , left half way through
Ohhh Lord I absolutelly hated, the story is boring, music horrible.. I almost left in the middle. the theater was half empty, just wondering why... place too noisy a lot of 'cracks' from the structure. Don't waste your money!
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?