Pros: The main characters were phenomenal, especially for being ages 16-21. Not a note, dance move or line out of place. Truly professionals.
Cons: The band was way too loud and drowned out the performers.
This was a really talented cast of 16-21 year old amateur performers, some of whom performed like professionals who had been doing it for years. Leah Louvaine White, playing Vanessa, had one of the strongest voices of the pack, coming in with ‘It Won’t Be Long Now’ so you could really see the hope in her performance to get out of the Barrio and start afresh. She hit every riff in ‘96000’ effortlessly.
Usnavi, played by Albert Graver, performed the opening number, In The Heights. His initially poor stage presence must have been down to nerves, because as the show progressed he really grew into the performance. His energetic and dorky Usnavi was a joy to watch.
Two absolutely brilliant characters were Benny, (Sammi Green) and Daniella (Lizzy Bajegbo). Benny, though not the strongest singer, was really shone with his ability to act through song. His energy on stage never dipped once, and it was tempting to jump up on stage and dance with him in ‘Benny’s Dispatch’. My favourite character in the show has to be Daniella, so I had high expectations. Lizzy Bajegbo exceeded them and more, with her interpretation that was funny, sassy and fierce; everything you want in a Daniella. Her hilarious gestures in ‘No Mi Diga’ and her attitude in Carnaval del Barrio just proved how she is the homely comedy relief everyone knows and loves in a show. Honourable mention also goes to Laura Mugford as Carla, whose ‘air head’ one liners really made me laugh.
Set and lighting were both great, with the Barrio in clear sight, Rosario’s cars, Daniella’s salon and Usnavi’s Bodega giving the local colour. Lighting was fun, colourful and LOUD, giving off that Latin flare throughout, and the club scene had a proper nightclub vibe.
The choreography was brilliant, but the stage was absolutely tiny and mostly taken up by the band. Most of the ensemble were brilliant dancers with energy and flare, but some didn’t have enough space so were doing the movements half-heartedly to avoid falling or hitting someone. This really ruined some of the ensemble moments.
The band members were insanely talented in their craft and everyone song was played effortlessly, but they were too loud. It got uncomfortable at points because the performers were trying to sing up to be heard, which drove the band to get even louder. It was overwhelming. When I spoke to a few audience members in the interval who weren’t familiar with the show, they said they couldn’t understand a word of the songs. They not only missed the performers’ brilliant, effortless vocals and stellar harmonies, but missed vital, key lines in the songs too.
Still, overall this was great for an amateur production. Tickets at £14 were great value because with the size of the theatre you could see perfectly from every seat. With better staging and technical decisions regarding the band, this show could be phenomenal, just like its cast.
Book: Quiara Alegria Hudes
Composer/Lyricist: Lin-Manuel Miranda
Director: Sofia Deas
Producer: Meredith Hughes
Musical Director: Olivia Wormald
Choreographer: Eliza Roadnight
Box Office: 0207 622 9208
Booking Link: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/whats-on/208-wandsworth-road/stockwell-playhouse/in-the-heights
Booking Until: This show has now ended its run