In the Heights – 03/01/2016

In my defence, I never planned to see this show twice in one week. Also, technically, the shows were in different years, so the fact that I saw it twice in five days is cancelled out. Sort of.

In all honesty I had a bit of a nightmare after the first show – something along the lines of leaving my phone in a bar, running back to get it, missing my last train home in the process, and having to spend £70 on a taxi home before crawling in to bed at 3am, all before a 9am shift at work the next morning. It was NOT a great end to my night, and I didn’t want it to ruin the last time I saw the show. So I booked another ticket.

I first saw this show back in May 2014 (read my completely unbiased blog here) when it had a run at the Southwark Playhouse. I knew I wanted to see it again at some point, and the fact that Nathan Amzi would be reprising his role as “Piragua Guy” for two weeks only was an added incentive to get back to the Barrio.

The set was very different to the set-up at the Playhouse – In the Heights is currently sharing the King’s Cross Theatre with a production of The Railway Children (insert shameless plug of my blog of that show here) and so the stage is set out like a platform, with a thin strip of stage in the middle (the tracks) and tiered seating stretched out along either side of it (the platform). It was interesting to see how the set had been adapted for this unusual stage; structures stood like bookends at either end of the stage, and all of the action happened in the middle, with entrances and exits made through the functioning doors of the buildings.

I absolutely raved about Sam Mackay in my last Heights blog, so please forgive me for being a bit repetitive. This man is a magician. I have never seen anyone rap so confidently, so consistently and made it look so damn easy! I was struggling to even keep up with line after rapid line, but Sam never faltered.

There were a few changes to the cast since the last time I saw the show – Jade Ewen and Lily Frazer took on the roles of Nina and Vanessa, with Philippa Stefani stepping in as Daniela to cover a VERY pregnant Victoria Hamilton-Barritt. Each girl was an absolute powerhouse in their own way, with Philippa Stefani proving herself to be a very talented and hilarious character actress, really building the role of Daniela and making her a sassy, feisty Latina with a wicked tongue and a cheeky glint in her eye.

Of course I have to mention Nathan Amzi who was, as always, an absolute joy to watch. As versatile as ever, he danced around the stage with a huge, infectious smile on his face, never dropping a beat and producing some pretty impressive riffs in the process. It’s a shame he can’t stay in the show for longer as the role was practically made for him, but I’m very excited to see him in Aladdin in May!

But I digress – what I really love about this show is it brings to my attention things I never usually notice. The lighting is so powerful and so integral to the show that it takes your breath away – the strategic use of total darkness, with actors holding lights on the stage to illuminate their movements is just breathtaking. My favourite part is during a blackout the darkness is penetrated by “fireworks.” It really looked as though there were fireworks lighting the sky. It was magical, so a HUGE pat on the back to Hugh Hudson the lighting designer.

I also love the costumes in this show – almost everyone wears very form-fitting costumes that seem to weld to their skin, without looking cheap or unflattering. The costumes seem to move with the actors and enunciate their movement, making the choreography look fluid and flawless. Every single dance number was so tightly choreographed, so technically perfect and so full of energy it was very hard to keep still in my seat, so another huge well done to Gabriella Slade, costume designer, and the wonderful Drew McOnie for his stunning choreography.

I studied Spanish for over five years at school, from GCSE right through to A-Level, and what I love the most about this show is how true it is to the Latin culture. From the feisty, rapidly speaking women to the amalgamation of Spanish and English within a sentence, the attention to detail within this show both from the director (Luke Sheppard) and the flawless cast, and the passion with which they perform, are what really make In the Heights one of the best new musicals on the West End.

 

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