Wow. Just wow. I love a good musical, and I am normally impressed with the Southwark Playhouse’s offerings, but they have really outdone themselves this time.
In The Heights is a modern musical which enjoyed success on Broadway in 2008. Conceived by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who also wrote the music and lyrics, the show has a book by Quiara Alegria Hudes and this London premiere is directed by Luke Sheppard. Based around the Latino community of Washington Heights, New York, it has an extraordinary energy, incredible choreography – which seems even more impressive in the confined space of Southwark’s Main House – and strong musical numbers.
There isn’t much story to speak of – the plot revolves around a cast of characters learning to find their place in the world, love each other and grasp happiness where they can. It’s a powerful, heartfelt and often feelgood piece with a brilliant cast, including David Bedella, Victoria Hamilton-Barritt (wonderfully funny as hairdresser Daniela), Sam Mackay (rapper Usnavi) and my personal favourite, Christina Modestou (college girl Nina). In some ways it reminded me of the modern craze for dance movies like Streetdance or Step Up, but this comparison doesn’t fully convey the brilliance of the music.
I really, really hope this piece has a life beyond south London: I think my non-musical-loving friends would really enjoy it, and for anyone who does love musicals, it’s a breath of fresh air.