WHAT is there to say about In The Heights but muy caliente? So hot, in fact, that the Broadway production can boast a slew of Tony Awards, a Grammy and a Pulitzer nomination.
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So far, a professional staging of the Hispanic musical about living life on the wrong edge of Manhattan Island has yet to make landfall in the UK, but such is the faith of the Edinburgh University Footlights in the show, they’ve chosen to premier it in Scotland to celebrate their 25th anniversary.
It’s a savvy choice. The show is witty and infused with youthful desire. Many of the production’s themes, of familial sacrifice, accepting change and seeking somewhere to call home, will appeal strongly to a 20-something audience, although there is more than enough material to draw anyone who might want to check it out.
Following the fortunes of four youngsters who’ve called Washington Heights their home since childhood, the plot revolves around their burning ambitions, a mysterious lottery win and a long hot, sunny 4th of July full of more fireworks than New York’s annual Macy’s Independence Day display.
The book has a number of structural problems that leave the audience vaguely unsatisfied by the finale, yet the energy of the choreography, music and cast make up for these misgivings.
Blending a bright kaleidoscope of ethnicities, musical influences and urban dance styles, the show is skillfully held together by street rapper Usnavi, played with vocal clarity by Benjamin Aluwihare. Aisling Brady’s bittersweet Abuela is beautifully drawn, while Alex Poole’s Kevin has a charming pathos and Fifer Sarah Couper’s fiesty Daniela fizzes like the firecracker that she is.
The ambitious choreography is well realised. The backstage crew have done wonders with sound balance, while director Jimi Mitchell pulls the full ensemble together competently.
Good enough to compete with some of the professional offerings in town this week, you could do a lot worse than fork out £12.50 for a preview of the West End’s next big feelgood hit.
• Run ends Saturday