In the Heights – First Birthday – King’s Cross Theatre

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Actor Sam Mackay leads the first birthday celebrations for In The Heights at the King’s Cross Theatre, London

In The Heights continues at the King’s Cross Theatre, London until 8 January 2017.

Star rating: five stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Following on from its short run at the Southwark Playhouse, and its successful transfer to the King’s Cross Theatre, audiences have been eager to see Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes’ In The Heights – so much so, that the show recently celebrated its first birthday at the venue.

In The Heights catapults you into the world of Washington Heights, a vibrant Latino neighbourhood where lottery tickets flood the streets while the breeze carries the sweet scent of the American dream. The book concentrates on a giddy community of people, each with their own dreams, pressures and burdens.

Arun Blair-Mangat as Benny, Juliet Gough as Camilla and Stephanie Rojas as Carla joined the cast from mid-September, while Sarah Naudi, who has been with the show since it opened at the Southwark Playhouse in 2014, plays the role of Vanessa and Damian Buhagiar returns to the production as Sonny, having originated the role in 2014.

It is impossible to cherry pick the strongest performers from this fine ensemble; every cast member proves to be a triple threat. The way they each embrace the intimacy of Luke Sheppard’s production is outstanding. It is wonderfully refreshing to watch a group of artists who are evidently loving what they are doing, and this is reflected in the audience’s reaction.

Following three generations, the show appeals to anybody and everybody. The charming Usnavi (Sam Mackay) invites us to embrace Miranda’s music, with its rap influences in addition to more conventional musical themes. He becomes the audience’s companion throughout the show.

The clever and imaginative lighting is also very effective in the intimate space, a perfect location for this ‘barrio’. The audience is thrown into the world of the performance, complemented by the quirky in-the-round-style of the theatre, emphasising the easy communication between the cast and those watching.

It’s absolutely no surprise to me that In The Heights won three Olivier Awards. Choreographer Drew McOnie’s work is absolute genius. The dance and fluidity of movement is stunning and well-disciplined within what is, by contrast, a scattered and spontaneous structure.

In The Heights will leave you inspired and charmed – with an irresistible urge to salsa.

Polly Sisley

Tickets for In the Heights are available HERE.

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