Interview: Sarah Naudi (In The Heights)

Sarah Naudi was part of the original cast of In The Heights at the Southwark Playhouse, where she played the role of Carla. She has recently taken over the role of Vanessa.

You started off in the role of Carla, how did you end up playing Vanessa?
Basically when I first auditioned, I auditioned for Vanessa and thankfully got cast in the show, but got Carla. And it was amazing actually. Especially working with Victoria Hamilton-Barritt (who originated the role of Daniela in the London cast of In The Heights). I was obsessed with her already and I thought 'great, I get to be your sidekick!' it was amazing! And then we moved here (to the King's Cross Theatre) and I was still playing Carla which was such a fun role. I was understudying all of the other girls, so I got to play all of them too. But there was something inside me that was like 'I really want to play Vanessa'. I just get her. And then at the cast change it happened! It was a dream come true!

What was the transition like?
The transition was... it's weird because I feel like coming from the ensemble to then playing the lead role, which blows my mind, I can appreciate how much work the ensemble have to do. We come on and sing a few songs and get lovely praise, but actually people are dancing and give their hearts, you know? I love that I now get to do this but have experienced that as well. And Drew McOnie's choreography! I don't get to do a lot of that now, but I can't complain!

The choreography in the show is amazing, a real highlight! 
Yes! And that's the core. I feel like the whole show is run by that.

Absolutely! It's a shame that your new role doesn't require as much dancing, but what's your favourite thing about playing Vanessa? 
I think she is quite different from me. One thing we have in common is that I'm from a tiny island, and Vanessa has a goal of getting out of the Barrio and doing something with her life, well I was exactly like that. Growing up I always said 'I'm going to be someone, I'm going somewhere', so I moved here on my own when I was a teenager. And I guess it's fun, you know, when everyone in the show is shouting 'Vanessa, Vanessa'. They kind of give you that status when you walk on (during The club scene)!

What is your favourite song to perform in the show? 
Definitely Champagne. She has a moment when she realises she's too late and goes 'oh my god, I've known Usnavi for so long, and I get it now'. And he's leaving. I find it so sad that he doesn't stay for her. He stays when he sees the graffiti on the grate. So it's sad. But I think my favourite song in the show is 96000. I used to get to dance in it a lot more and I love the pounding music. I could listen to it forever.

It's interesting that you talk about how the end of the show is a little bit sad for Vanessa. Where do you see her character going after the show has ended? 
That's a really good question actually! I feel like she probably does get out but I think she'll go back every now and then. I don't know what will happen with the romance, but I think she'll always have a sense of home there and that's what makes the finale so beautiful. I'm exactly the same. Yes I wanted to leave, but my home will always be my home. Every time I go back I feel... well, Benny has one of my favourite lines in the show, he says 'the street's a little kinder when you're home', and it's true. I think that everything's a bit easier and a bit more safe when you're home, and I think Vanessa probably needs that.

Thank you to Sarah for answering these questions. Be sure to catch her as Vanessa in In The Heights at the King's Cross Theatre!

In The Heights has extended its London run at the King’s Cross Theatre for the third and final time and is now booking until Sunday 8 January 2017. Tickets start at £22.50, with a selection of best seats available for Under 25s at a special rate of £15 at every performance. Visit for more information and to purchase tickets.