In the Heights (West End) Review
Benny – Spin
Vanessa – Jocasta Almgill
Abuela Claudia – Norma Atallah
Kevin – Vas Constanti
Camila – Josie Benson
Nina – Gabriela Garcia
Usnavi – Cleeve September
Sonny – Reiss Hinds
Carla – Sarah Naudi
Daniela – Philippa Stefani
Venue: Kings Cross Theatre
Date: Sunday 24th April 2016
I first saw this show on Broadway almost eight years ago, the night before it won the Tony Award for Best New Musical I must add (and I was at the awards, yes really). It was like nothing I had ever seen before in musical terms and I haven’t seen anything like it since. It was therefore really great to be able to see it again. It was even better than I remembered it, after listening to the songs on my iPod over the years. It really is such a special show and such a shame it has taken two attempts to get it going in London.
A big reason why I decided to see it again as well was because David Bedella was starring in it and had recently won an Olivier Award for his role. Devastation kicked in though when we were waiting to get into the seats and loads of cast changes were made for the performance, too many to actually notice which names had been said. But yes David was not in the show when we saw it, which was rather disappointing for a moment or two. That was short-lived though as you would never have guessed some of the actors were only doing their second performance in certain roles, incredible performers!
I must start by mentioning the incredible Kings Cross Theatre, which is shared between In the Heights and The Railway Children. You head down (a lot) of stairs into the Theatre, it might have felt like even more having finished the London Marathon a few hours before! But as you go down, it has such a cool atmosphere, and you are located on either Platform 1 or Platform 2. This is because the stage is in the middle of two sets of seats, this is made shorter for In the Heights. Interesting to have the shops opposite each other as feels like a proper street. I thought this really added more to the production than it being on a regular stage, got to love something that is a little bit different.
Cleeve September was in the role of Usnavi and since seeing the show I found out that it was only the second time he had ever taken on the lead role. I would honestly never have guessed as he looked comfortable, relaxed and absolutely nailed each and every song he was part of, also taking on the more serious and upsetting moments in such tremendous fashion. He really did blow me away, I didn’t even realise he was not the “normal” Usnavi in all honesty he was that good and looked like he was having a great time from start to finish.
It turned out that we had a massive six understudies taking to the stage, again would never have actually realised with the high level of performances in a show that I really do think is so unique and special. You will never have seen anything like this before as a musical. It has such high energy and passion that you will not be able to help smiling and moving along to the engaging music. With plenty of very clever (and amusing) lyrics mixed in with some rap and powerful singing. Not to mention the breakdancing among other styles, it really does have an incredible energy.
Each and every one of the performers had amazing voices and really fit well with the characters and differences in them. Truly powerful and at times haunting, showing the struggle they are facing in the Heights! How difficult it has been for all of them and how they feel they need to get out, yet care about one another as they are a family. Which just shows how many key and incredible messages the story holds with it as well.
So it turns out my second viewing of this show has confirmed my love and appreciation for something that is truly unique and a little bit different. Aren’t we all just a little bit different and doesn’t this show help to appreciate yourself a little bit more and let you know that it is perfectly fine to be different.
I really do recommend this show a lot! Pleased it has been doing well in London and hope the Olivier Award wins (and nominations) will help raise the profile even more, massive well done to everyone involved in the production!
*I must apologise if I got any cast member in the wrong role, had to go off memory and matching to photos in the programme.