MUSIC OWL AWARDS: 5th – lyrics; 3rd – direction; 1st – value
When I went: 5 November 2015
Location: King’s Cross Theatre, London
Performers: Sam MacKay (Usnavi), Victoria Hamilton-Barritt (Daniela), Jade Ewen (Vanessa), Lily Frazer (Nina), Joe Aaron Reid (Benny), Eve Polycarpou (Abuela Claudia), David Bedella (Kevin)
Creative team: Lin-Manuel Miranda (music and lyrics), Luke Sheppard (director), Drew McOnie (choreographer), Paul Taylor Mills, Hilary A Williams, Tulchin / Bartner Productions (producers), Quiara Alegria Hudes (book)
Approximate price: £50
Special points: Fusion of hip-hop and Latin influences
Best bit: Blackout
If I could change one thing: Slightly more memorable songs
Lin-Manuel Miranda has become famous due to the success of Hamilton, but In The Heights is in my opinion underrated by audiences, although it did win a Tony award for Best Musical. I think it more than deserves to transfer to the West End and is much better than a lot of the current productions there.
The fusion of hip-hop and Latin influences might put people off if they are looking for a more ‘traditional’ musical, but the combination of much heart and spirit, some punchy songs, brilliant lyrics and memorable dancing makes for a really great show.
Almost immediately, I knew I was going to enjoy this show; the small-scale setting in Washington Heights, New York and the focus on some very likeable characters ensured that. I found myself increasingly impressed by the dancing and singing of the performers, especially Sam Mackay as Usnavi, Jade Ewen as Vanessa and Lily Frazer as Nina. Victoria Hamilton-Barritt, who I had previously seen in A Chorus Line, was also fabulous as hairdresser Daniela.
This was by far one of the best productions I had seen in a long time, and I would really like to see it again.