Last Friday, In the Heights celebrated its first birthday, marking a year on the London stage. Myself and a number of other bloggers were fortunate enough to be invited to help celebrate the big day.
You get everyone addicted to your coffee then off you go…
Originally, the show was only slated for a month’s run at Southwark Playhouse in 2014. Fortunately for audiences, the production was met with critical acclaim and transferred to the Kings Cross Theatre in October 2015 for a limited four week period. Again, fortunately for audiences, this was then extended again and again and is now booking through to January 2017.
A couple of days in the life of what it’s like
En Washington Heights!
With music and lyrics by Lin Manuel Miranda (Hamilton) and book from Quiara Algería Hudes, In the Heights is a Tony and Olivier winning musical. Following Usnavi and the other residents of 181st Street, we see the place they are living starting to change and the characters’ own lives too. With energy, love and family at its heart, this Birthday also brings with in new members who are joining the company’s family. In what was my third time seeing the show, the energy was still as palpable as the first time I saw it: the laughs are still as loud, the audience’s heads still bobbing, and the tears still falling!
New cast members include Arun Blair-Mangat as Benny, Juliet Gough as Camila, Stephanie Rojas as Carla, and Damian Buhagiar reprising his role as Sonny. Benny is a part I’ve never massively been a fan of and is hard to pull off, requiring the actor to rap and hit a lot of high notes. Blair-Mangat is exceptional in the role, bringing the character to life with a sweetness, cheekiness and innocence. It’s great to see Buhagiar back, bringing a real sense of dynamism and determination to the role, in both his rapping and movement. Both Gough and Rojas absolutely kill it as these strong female characters, blowing the roof of the theatre with strong singing and laughs respectively. The existing cast is as strong as ever, with incredible chemistry between them. And I still don’t understand how Sam Mackay can rap that fast that many times a week!
You wanna dance?
In addition to seeing the show, we were treated to a salsa lesson from the choreographers, learning a sequence from ‘The Club’. The cast were on hand to help out (though I don’t think any amount of help could have helped me and Anna), but they were all so lovely! If you were to ask me how I danced, to quote the show, ‘Like a drunk Chita Rivera’. Needless to say, the cast have no worries about either me or Anna outdancing them, taking their place or stepping on their toes metaphorically…what was more likely was stepping on their toes literally! It was great fun though, and reminded us just why it won an Olivier for choreography last year!
Tell me something I don’t know!
The ice officially broken, we then had a chance to sit down and chat to members of the cast. I was lucky enough to speak to Damian Buhagiar (Sonny), Gabriela García (Nina) and Sam Mackay (Usnavi) interviews will follow later this week, so stay tuned to find out about the journey of the show and what the cast themselves would do with $96,000.
It was quite an evening, a Carnaval del Kings Cross Theatre (yes, my Spanish is flawless). Thanks again to In the Heights and folks over at RAW PR for inviting me. The show closes in January 2017, so book your tickets while you can for the most energetic, emotional and excelente show in town.