Last night I saw In the Heights, down at the Kings Cross Theatre – A refurbished old train platform converted into a theatre. In the Heights is written by Lin Manuel Miranda, set in Washington Heights, following the story of this Latino community in New York. It won four Tonys in 2008 and Lin Manuel Miranda just received an Olivier award for outstanding achievement in music for In the Heights.
The theatre was interesting. I have to say I’ve never been to a theatre that was also a train station. They used traverse staging and you were extremely close to the action and had the actors singing directly to you. It was very different to Barbarians however, where Barbarians was intense and dark, In the Heights was fun and enjoyable. Don’t get me wrong; it definitely addressed political issues as well. It looked at immigration and poverty in New York, with topical references to Donald Trump. The staging made me feel like I was a part of the community; I cringed for what the characters said, as if they were my friends, I rejoiced when they did, and cried when they did. This also meant that when they were performing the huge musical numbers, for once I didn’t want to run up onto the stage to be with them, because I already felt like was. When I heard the opening number, I knew I was going to watch something amazing. I knew it was going to be brilliant. And by the end of Act 1, I couldn’t wait for the interval to be over.
The set was really realistic, because you were so up close you could notice the attention to detail which I loved, and made it that little bit more immersive. One thing about the lighting I loved was the act 1 finale. As it is set on the 4th of July, there are fireworks, and the lighting designer managed to re-create the lighting effect of fireworks on stage, really well. Getting the right lighting on the cast perfectly. The act 1 finale was amazing.
The actor who played Usnavi, Cleve September, was actually the understudy, And reminded me so much of Lin Manuel Miranda himself, who took the same role when the show opened on Broadway in 2008. When he was standing, rapping directly to the audience, to me, I must admit I fell in love with him a little, be that Usnavi, or Cleve. I really liked his acting style and the character Usnavi, this slightly awkward, dorky, hopeful shop owner, who is extremely proud of his heritage, and will do almost anything to get to his home, the Dominican Republic. Josie Benson & Lily Frazer, who played Abuela Claudia and Nina, complemented him beautifully. The whole cast had amazing voices which was shown through the amazing music, now I love Lin Manuel Miranda’s music, so it is no surprise I love the music. The complex lyrics with Latino roots were a perfect way to show the core inspiration of the piece. Full of energy and soul, coupled with some extraordinary choreography, it made the whole night and production astonishing.
There is so much more I can say, about the symbolism in the piece, with the heat, building up tension and the blackout, making everyone powerless, with electricity, but also showing that they are powerless as a community. However I will stop there, before going into full essay mode. I honestly could not stop smiling throughout the show; I had sore cheeks by the end of it. I implore you to see it if you have the chance. It’s £15 for under 25s. And if you are not sure about it, listen to the opening number. ‘In The Heights’, or ‘Blackout’ They’re both on youtube.