This latest trip was a birthday present from my Dad (thank you!) and I was determined to make the most of four whole days in London. My original plan was to see Kinky Boots, the new cast of In the Heights, Rachel Tucker in Wicked and then a cheeky In the Heights matinee before my train home… but when does anything ever go to plan?!
Kinky Boots was replaced by 27, a new musical directed by Sam Cassidy playing at the Cockpit Theatre, Marylebone, and then it was time to get back to the Kings Cross Theatre for In The Heights. I had mixed emotions about seeing the show with a new cast, but any doubts I had were extinguished about thirty seconds in. They are AMAZING. There is not one weak link within the entire ensemble, which is even more impressive when you consider how little time they had to rehearse the complex dance routines.
I have to mention two absolute assets to this new cast. First of all Arun Blair-Mangat, the new Benny, is sensational. His range is ridiculous, his timing is spot on, his acting is incredible – I could go on! He has such amazing chemistry with Gabriela Garcia’s Nina and he is more than a match for her powerful vocals. In three shows he never faltered, and his big note in 96,000? Wow!
The other stand-out for me was Stephanie Rojas who has taken over the role of Carla from Sarah Naudi, who is now playing Vanessa. Stephanie is a wonderfully gifted comedy actress and one hell of dancer. She has injected so much fun into the role and had me nearly crying with laughter during “No Me Diga.” She’s a brilliant find and definitely one to watch in the future.
The cast all received a much-deserved standing ovation at the end of the show and I couldn’t wait for my next Heights show two days later – turns out I didn’t have to!
Around 3pm the next day I decided to turn off my phone, have a shower and read my book for a while (I know; I’m out of control). About an hour later I turned my phone back on and all hell had broken loose. My phone was lit up with messages from my two Heights partners in crime Ann and Mandy: “Vas Constanti is on as Kevin at In the Heights tonight!” OH MY GOD! In the 45 minutes it had taken me to reply Mandy and Ann they already had their tickets sorted, and I had a dilemma on my hands. On the one hand I really wanted to see Rachel Tucker as Elphaba, but on the other hand I am NEVER in London when my favourite covers go on last minute. I didn’t want to risk waiting until the following day’s matinee in case I missed it. Sod it, back to the Barrio I go!
The show was just as flawless as the previous night. I’m so happy that Jocasta Almgill agreed to stay with the show as Daniela for two weeks, and I’ll be sad to see her leave the show on the 2nd of October. Go and see her if you get the chance!
Norma Atallah also had a really good show as Abuela Claudia – her relationship with Sam Mackay has grown so much and she acts “Paciencia y Fe” so brilliantly. Sam Mackay was as consistent as ever, putting in yet another faultless performance as Usnavi.
My personal highlight though was, of course, the lovely Vas Constanti as Kevin Rosario, (*shameless plug* read my recent interview with him here). He plays the role with such authenticity, really pouring his heart and soul into every scene. His performance of “Inútil” is done with such passion and acted perfectly – you could see the audience siding with Kevin as he tried to do what was right for his family. It’s a very genuine portrayal of the role and I’m so glad I got to see it again, even if it was all a bit last minute!
The brilliant thing about this show is you can go and watch it three times in three days and still enjoy every second. In every show I see something different and the new cast have really upped the stakes, making the show fresh and exciting. The Tuesday matinee was just as energetic as the previous two shows (and Vas was still Kevin – yay!) and before I knew it, it was time to head home. 11 whole days until my next Heights show – what am I supposed to do until then?!