Friday, 14 October 2016

in the heights

On the evening of Monday 25 July we all went to the King's Cross Theatre to see In The Heights, the modern musical set in New York. We thought it was okay, but not as good everyone raving about it - and most of the rest of the very enthusiastic audience - thought. And it was too loud.

Some of the hype was I'm sure to do with the fact that the person behind it is the one behind the current Broadway musical sensation Hamilton. It was quite well done, the music was okay, and the singing and dancing was quite good; but just nothing special. It was disappointing, really; we'd been led to expect something much better, but I don't think the disappointment was just due to overheightened expectations. What I did like about the story was that it wasn't all gangs and drugs and violence (I don't know if anyone has criticised it for that, citing 'lack of realism'), but was - presumably deliberately - a quite old-fashioned story of love, community, and choices, responsibilities and demands in relation to both.

It was done with audience down both sides of a long narrow stage (it's the place where The Railway Children is staged); and for the first time in three musicals in quick succession, they gave more interest, levels and movement to a largely empty stage set (they had building frontages at either end) by using a large platform on wheels. Also like an increasing number of stage productions we've seen recently, especially musicals, everyone was miked up; although of course in this case they had to be, because the music was so loud, but so were they too.

One interesting related thing was this. There was an announcement beforehand about understudies which I couldn't make out, and it did seem obvious from the photos in the programme and some of the reactions that there were understudies on, but there was no slip in the programme. I tweeted the company and got an unhelpful reply, but I got a reply from a Twitter account called West End Understudies, which tweets who's understudying in which West End shows today/tomorrow, which is impressive, helpful and I don't know how they do it.