Not sheepish, but individ-ewe-al (livredor) wrote,
Not sheepish, but individ-ewe-al

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Theatre: In the heights

[personal profile] rmc28's review inspired [personal profile] jack to ask me if I wanted to see In The Heights, the "other" Lin Manuel Miranda piece that's playing in the King's Cross Theatre currently. I said, in principle, sure, but when are we ever going to find time to go to the theatre? And then I remembered that we actually had a free evening this Saturday, so we were able to be much more spontaneous than we usually ever are, and booked tickets and turned up.

I liked everything about the show that [personal profile] rmc28 liked. Amazing dancing, great numbers, a really tender ensemble plot about chosen family and all kinds of different relationships. I found the show extremely moving, succeeding at conveying the whole gamut of emotions without ever being heavy-handedly sentimental. The staging and lighting were brilliant, really making use of what is a tiny stage, including the whole vertical space to convey the idea of people living in tenement blocks and above shops.

It's a more traditional musical than Hamilton, with some of the story told in dialogue, and a fairly consistent style, namely Latin-influenced musical theatre, though with some bits of rap, and some of the really brilliant Miranda rhymes and wordplays. And really well cast; in some ways this is a difficult play to do in England when it's so very located not just in theatre-generic "America" but in a very specific time and place, the Latinx community in a particular block in Washington Heights. It's very clear in the script that Latinx isn't one single culture or ethnic group, and the casting reflected this. Just occasionally it felt a bit too much like British actors trying too hard with accents and mannerisms, but mostly it worked. I am not sure if the original script actually specifies that the one non-Latino character, Benny, is supposed to be African-American, but having a Black actor play him was a really nice choice if it was a choice.

For me, the one weak spot was that some of the principals are just not that great as singers. All outstandingly brilliant actors and the dancing blew my mind, but some of the singing was a bit mediocre. Sam McKay conveyed his character, Usnavi, the protagonist in as far as there is one, marvellously, but his singing and rapping let him down. On the other hand, Norma Atallah was magnificent as Abuela, with a beautiful, powerful voice that was nevertheless appropripate for a frail older character. And Gabriela Garcia as Nina just completely dominated the stage every time she opened her mouth, at one point I was thinking she could be the next Idina Menzel.

It was really great to be able to go to the theatre right there at the back of King's Cross station. We had a light pre-theatre meal in the Betjeman gastro pub, and had time to move on to the deli in St Pancras for dessert, watching all the Halloween crowds go by. We weren't as lucky as RMC; the show overran 20 minutes past its official end time of 22:50 and we just saw the 23:14 train pulling out as we got to the platform. Which meant an hour's wait in King's Cross, and after all the station cafés were shut. So we headed eastwards away from the very gentrified Euston Road, and that side of the station there are still all night dive cafés which provided us with tea and a vantage point for watching more Halloween revellers. And we got home for about 2 am, luckily the clocks went back and made it only 1. I was pleased that my first attempt to cycle to the station, leave the bike in the new multi-storey bike park there, go out in the evening London, and cycle home late at night, worked entirely without a hitch; I'd been worried that cycling home that late might be a bit painful, but it was fine.

We had a pretty quiet day most of yesterday, until OSOs joined us for tea and then a lovely group of our friends came over for a Halloween party. Andreas had lots of fun putting up Halloween decorations but ducked out of the actual socializing with lots of not very familiar adults part. And Judith persuaded several of us into a long game of Zendo, which she is getting very good at. It wasn't a huge party but it was a great mix of poly friends and geek friends, very congenial and with some really great Halloween costumes. I dressed up as Candela, the Pokémon Go Team Valor leader, to match the children's Pikachu and Dawn-from-the-animé costumes. And Jack was Aang from Avatar: the last Airbender, and Ghoti was, aaargh, Nanowrimo is about to start! Really good to be able to have a fairly low-key party on a Sunday evening.

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Tags: culture

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