There is a wealth of talent on stage at The Merlin this week as Tri.Art Theatre School and Dance Academy present “In The Heights” the feisty, huge hearted musical from Lin Manuel Miranda.
The story is set over the course of three days, involving characters in the largely Hispanic-American neighbourhood of Washington Heights in New York City. It is essentially a tale of life and love and the search of belonging. The depth of vocal skill in the young cast ensures that the score is sung with great commitment and passion by the principal characters. Sonny (Jack Brotherton) is a luminous presence onstage singing and dancing with ease. There are outstanding vocals from Abuela Claudia (Millie Weare) as the elder of the community whilst the young lovers Usnavi (Dillon Berry) and Vanessa (Maisie Fogg) alongside Nina (Kathryn Wright) and Benny (Oliver Edwards) ensure the complex score stays on track and the dramatic pace never falters in their care.
Directed by Claudia Pepler the cameo roles are equally well performed with good characterisation and the large company work together to provide a fluid changing background as the story progresses.
Under the musical direction of Joseph Church the band are excellent whilst the simple but effective design from Mike Witt allows the local community to develop easily and the full company numbers to work to full effect.
This is an impressive production of a rarely performed show. The scope is huge for a youth company but the result is good entertainment. The gamble to bring a lesser known show is always brave but it is refreshing to watch something different and challenging which allows such a strong principal line up the chance to fly.