Sam Mackay as Usnavi and The Company of IN THE HEIGHTS. Photo Credit Robert Workman
This is no doubt a musical lover’s musical.
As the first professional production of the Tony award winning musical In the Heights in the UK, young director Luke Sheppard and his cast have given themselves a huge task. This may be a lesser known musical, especially over here in the UK, but In the Heights has developed quite a cult following since it first opened in 2005.
Set within the Dominican-American neighborhood Washington Heights in New York, it is easy to understand why the musical’s license holders were wary of handing it over to young British hands. The cast is largely British. The choreographer Drew McOnie and musical supervisor Tom Deering are both as young as Sheppard and not the first creative team you’d think of putting together for a hip hop infused musical. This could be a recipe for disaster, but instead one of the most dynamic musicals London has seen in years ensues.
The Company of IN THE HEIGHTS. Photo Credit Robert Workman
Taking a while to warm up, the pace steps up when Usnavi discovers he has sold a winning lottery ticket from his convenience store. Sam Mackay stands out instantly and often carries the production as loveable Usnavi, narrating the play with his impressive fast paced raps. This is no doubt a musical lover’s musical. With very little dialogue, the show is nonstop music and even though a lot happens in the space of three days, it is more about characters and family values than plot.
It may have been a difficult few months for musicals in the capital, but In the Heights deserves a long life across the pond.
There are a few confusing moments when a blackout occurs and stereotypical slow bimbo-esque character Carla could be cut out completely, but with only five weeks of rehearsals in a small church this is an incredibly tight production. It may have been a difficult few months for musicals in the capital, but In the Heights deserves a long life across the pond.
Info: In the Heights is at Southwark Playhouse until June 7th, 2014 | Book tickets