96,000 stars for In the Heights

Recently, I’ve had a major blogger break. Feeling underwhelmed by theatre, I had run out of inspiration. Blogging became a burden, rather than a joy. Being blinded, dazed and bored with serious fringe, you could say a pick me up was needed. Backing away from blogging, I strangely achieved a promotion at work, joined a gym, started the dating game and socialised with my abandoned friends.

After a little tender loving care, I want to take my blog back to its roots and relive my excitement for theatre once again. I just needed to wait it out until something rocked up like….IN THE HEIGHTS!

In the Heights. Company. Photo credit: Johan Persson

Seriously, In the Heights is a title that needs to be spoken with volume, a smile and a booty shake. Demanding your soul for Latin and hip hop, the production promises the wriggles of arms, hips and butt. With sprays of colour and attitude, these guys reinstated my love for theatre and “what it means to be home”.

Celebrating their first birthday, In the Heights was like a sizzling salsa dip, crunching on long lost love and relighting flaming hot fun. No sign of sweat breaks or the story turning sour, the cast were the gift that kept on giving.

In the Heights is an uplifting and exhilarating journey into Washington Heights, one of Manhattan’s most vibrant communities – a place where the coffee is light and sweet, the windows are always open and the breeze carries the rhythm of three generations of music. It’s a community on the brink of change, full of hopes, dreams and pressures, where the biggest struggle can be deciding which traditions to take with you, and which ones to leave behind.

In the Heights flicked spoken word and kicked energy back into my face. Full of passion towards every word and melody, this was the work of a genius. The production was sexy yet down with the kids. The style was slick with an infectious rhythm and beat drops that took me back to my Croydon days. The cast sang and danced to the thumps of their hearts, staring out with their body and soul.

Like a child imitating their parents, my hips jerked and feet tapped, trying to follow their lead. Thinking I was part of their gang, I wanted to burst into dance during the interval. Luckily, I saved my “armbreaker” salsa move for the living room.

Learning the word from Washington Heights, I fell head over heels (or my case boots) for Usnavi (Sam Mackay). As a narrator, the man has serious swagger and earns massive respect. Owning his loveable role, he reminds you to stay true to your roots. Use your love of the word, but switch it up and mix it a bit. Add expression, paint words with deep emotion and BAM you have got yourself one good-looking, bald man in a flying shirt as a lyrical legend.

In the Heights. Sam Mackay (Usnavi). Photo credit: Johan Persson

Looking after his young cousin, Sonny (Damian Buhagiar) and despising the troublesome Graffiti Pete (Johnny Bishop), Usnavi is a father figure to those boys, despite having “no skills”. Both boys sent hearts racing in the audience whilst busting some serious moves on the dancefloor. They brought the street to the stage and gave it creative vision. They spun the bourgeoisie into wastemen and expressed “Yo! Hear me out!” Ditching all those fancy words, street talk finally has purpose, where there’s a flavour of culture and roots.

In the Heights. Johnny Bishop (Graffiti Pete). Photo credit: Johan Persson

The perfect interweaving of relationships between admirers, family and friends creates this everlasting abundance of love. Constantly fast paced like a washing machine on spin, there’s only one woman who halts energy with peace. Abuela Claudia (Norma Atallah) cements the adorable community spirit with grandmother’s wisdom. With fragility, she calms the determined young minds and appreciates the small things which everyone has rushed by.

In the Heights. Norma Atallah (Abuela Claudia). Photo credit: Johan Persson

Being the first daughter who went to university too, Nina (Gabriela Garcia) is totally relatable. Basically, she’s the goody-two shoes of the block, worried to slip up. Admired and loved by her family and community, the book slaps of pressure and vulnerability seeps through her sad solo, Breathe. She’s the mirror of many worried young girls, scared of being “failures” in life.

Thanks to her love for Benny (Arun Blair-Mangat), she grows into a strong independent woman and begins to take the reins. She worries her loving parents, Kevin (Vas Constanti) and Camila (Juliet Gough), and forces them into a whirlwind of change. Kevin’s sad tune of Inutil and Camila’s fiery song of Enough both lyrically displayed their desperation of parenting and life-changing decisions.

In the Heights. Gabriela Garcia (Nina). Photo credit: Johan Persson

As the pillar of family love and business, Benny reestablishes the commitment and determination to provide for his new family. He has such a generous soul and loving hand. Wanting to prove, he can and will make it. With young and excited minds, the coupling between Benny and Nina promises newfound hope.

The hilarious gossiping hairdressers provided the fergalicious, glamorous beauty and bling to the streets. Daniela (Jocasta Almgill) and Carla (Stephanie Rojas) slicked back the speedy vibes and teased some comedy relief throughout the production. Trimming and back combing the drama, they tease and spice up their friends’ love lives, especially No Me Diga and Benny’s got “quite a big… taxi”.

In the Heights. Company. Photo credit: Johan Persson

Working at Daniela’s salon and living with her alcoholic mother, Vanessa (Sarah Naudi) is a beautiful woman who sends Usnavi into a nervous wreck. Wanting to break free, she’s the song goddess with a voice from heaven. Every time Vanessa came to the stage, you knew the song was in safe hands. The song, Champagne, gave the cutest moment between Vanessa and Usnavi, melting the very cheesy “Awwwws”.

Making me want to visit Washington Heights, the smiling Piragua Guy (Michael Cortez) brought his drinks cart, refreshing the ensemble with rainbow slushies. Loving this animated community vibe, the stage was their well-loved, intimate home. Witnessing the aftermath of Usnavi’s raided business, the devastation gripped, shocked and steered act two into a new direction of drama and realisation. They were all losing their focus on what it truly means to be home.

Longing to see this show, In the Heights has been the highlight of my 2016. From the theatre, set, lighting, music and cast, they really deserved the standing ovation and applause. Full of hunger to dance and speak up, In the Heights just soars. I would give it 96,000 stars.

Book your tickets here to see In the Heights. Booking until 8 January 2017 so great Christmas present *wink wink*

Big thanks to all at Raw PR!


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