In The Heights is a musical by Quiara Alegria Hudes, with music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda (whose other work includes the acclaimed Hamilton). It began its life on a stage at Wesleyan University, Connecticut in 1999. An updated version of the show was staged at the National Music Theatre Conference in Watford, Connecticut in 2005, before it opened on Off-Broadway and then on Broadway. In The Heights premiered in the UK at the Southwark Playhouse in May 2014 and then transferred to the King’s Cross Theatre the following year.
The show is set in Washington Heights, a suburb of New York City, and tells the story through the eyes of struggling business owners: Usnavi, who runs a convenience store; Daniela, a local salon owner, and her employee, Vanessa; and Kevin and Camila Rosario, who run a taxi business, and their daughter, Nina, and employee Benny.
Sam Mackay (Wonder.land, Flashdance, Mamma Mia) played Usnavi and gave a fantastic performance of the opening number, ‘In The Heights’. He runs the local convenience store in partnership with his cousin, Sonny, who is played by Cleve September (The Last Days of Troy). Usnavi was raised by Abuela Claudia, played by Norma Atallah (Oklahoman!, Evita, Chicago) who recently took over from Eve Polycarpou.
Nina was played by Lily Frazer (Cats, Jesus Christ Superstar, Les Misérables) who was excellent in the role. Her performance of ‘Breathe’ was very touching and she demonstrated great vocal ability throughout the show. Gabriela Garcia (Hot Stuff, Ghost, Sweet Charity), first cover for Nina, is also phenomenal in the role and is a real treat to watch, playing Nina with a youthful innocence and fabulous vocals.
Kevin and Camila Rosario are played by David Bedella (Rocky Horror Show, Sweeney Todd, Chicago) and Josie Benson (Sweeney Todd, The Phantom of the Opera, Why Don’t You Just Sing Jazz?). Bedella’s performance ‘Inútil’ was a vulnerable and tender moment in the show, and Benson gave a standout vocal performance of ‘Enough’. Vas Constanti (Miss Saigon, The Rocky Horror Show, Flashdance), understudy for Kevin, is also very good in the role.
Joe Aaron Reid (Ghost, Catch Me If You Can, Chicago) played Benny, who has had a past relationship with Nina which is rekindled during the show. Reid gave a wonderful performance, particularly during ‘Benny’s Dispatch’.
Philippa Stefani (Evita, I Can’t Sing, Grease) played Daniela and she gave a standout performance overall and sang the highlight musical number of the show, ‘Carnival Del Barrio’.
Vanessa was played by Christine Allado (Beyond the Fence, Here Lies Love, From Here To Eternity), who recently took over the role from Jade Ewen. Allado is magnificent is the role, bringing energy and life to the part. She harmonised perfectly with Mackay in ‘Champagne’.
Overall, the dancing is phenomenal and the music has a wonderful groove, capturing the vibrancy of the New York suburb brilliantly. In The Heights is high energy, fresh and rhythmic – a carnival on stage, as embodied in the fantastic musical number ‘Carnival Del Barrio’!