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A CurtainUp London Review
In the Heights
Drew McOnie's energetically choreographed ensemble dance is outstanding with the cast dancing with coffee cups that later light up as if full of radio active coffee or cell phones which become torches. The music uses many of the Latin American rhythms as well as street music like hip hop.
You will fall in love with the romantic leads, Nina (Lily Frazer) the beautiful, bright girl who won a place at Stanford University in California and Benny (New Yorker Joe Aaron Reid) who works at the radio controller at Nina's father's taxi firm. Nina's father, Kevin, is played by the great David Bedella whose West End musical credentials speak for themselves. Nina and Benny's duets are out of this world.
Sam Mackay is Usnavi the bodega owner who is love with the beautiful Vanessa (Jade Ewen). A heavily pregnant Victoria Hamilton-Barritt is Daniela the sassy beauty salon owner whose likeable performance provides much of the show's comedy. Eve Polycarpou is Abuela Claudia, the grandmother from Havana, Cuba who personifies "Paciencia Y Fe", Patience and Faith, the show's anthem.
The difficulties and realities are there: Nina's struggle to pay her fees and living costs, holding down three jobs and not finding enough time for study and Kevin's choice between supporting his daughter, selling out or keeping the employment going for his drivers and staff. These are real issues we can identify with.
With the audience staged either side of the set, every seat has a good view and the sound balance has been well refined. The costumes are bright and fun and the set has the shops and cab firm at either end.
For the full plot, background and song list from New York go here. One difference I notice apart from the reprise of Piragua in the Second Act, is the Blackout number closing the First Act - this is the one with torches illuminating the dance.
The cast are immensely vocally and dance talented and a wonderful advertisement for the excellence performers available on London's Off West End. With the same composer and lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton currently wowing New Yorkers, I wonder if an Off West End theatre will be allowed to stage that show.
Be aware that at the moment In the Heights doesn't play Wednesday and Saturdays when The Railway Children takes over. I have visions of the graffiti artist Pete (Antoine Murray-Straughan) from In the Heights decorating the ancient steam train from the play of E Nesbit's book in a futuristic fantasy!
So that makes two American born musicals you have to see in London this year, In the Heights and Kinky Boots!
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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