In the Heights at King’s Cross Theatre
In the Heights packs a gaudy punch. This raucous, multiple Tony-winning musical explores themes that Arthur Laurent carved into musical theatre history in the 1950s with West Side Story, but with added sunshine. Set in the largely Latin-American populated neighborhood of New York, Washington Heights, the musical follows the struggles of various characters within the community as each battles their own grievance, be it matters of money, family or the heart.
The coarseness of urban life is foregone here in favour of a more supportive, community-based image. Writer Lin-Manuel Miranda endeavours to portray how a community supports one another in a closely woven social space, particularly when different cultural backgrounds are thrown into the mix. The effect is a sassy, heartwarming rendition of hood-life. The plot is rutted enough to be interesting and identifiable, whilst the visual effects, choreography and music provide the dazzle that is startlingly enjoyable. The dancing is so outrageously smooth it takes a second to comprehend the magnitude of what’s being done, and in such a small space. This kind of energy and tightness is infectious, and is certainly at the forefront of the musical’s spectacle.
Underneath the quality of the choreography and the vocals, the show suffers slightly from being a touch too dreamy. If the morals of the show themselves are uplifting and honest, the manner in which they are impressed is somewhat too fantastical for them to be taken straight up. It’s textbook American Dream but with modern-day censorship, which eliminates an underlying sense of truth that makes theatre so moving.
However, this does not detract from the vibrancy and fun of the singing and dancing. The cast are truly top class in their fields, busting out some spectacular moves and notes, and Sam Mackay’s humble yet unfalteringly ambitious Usnavi (the shopkeeper) is genuinely lovable.
The energy in this show is explosive. It is alarming, electrifying and somewhat comical all at once. Be prepared, or be blown away.
In The Heights is on at King’s Cross Theatre from 3rd October until 3rd January 2016, for the further information or to book visit here.