It’s time to go back to the movies and Lin Manuel Miranda’s In The Heights is the jubilant celebration we have all been waiting for and needed now more than ever before. I will be the first to admit, as a HUGE fan of the stage show, I was
more than a little skeptical of just how this would translate to the silver screen, but with thanks to the brilliant Jon M. Chu who brings Lin Manuel Miranda’s In The Heights vision to life, this movie is a triumphant return of getting back to a life we have all longed for and waited for over the past year and this truly was worth the wait. For those unfamiliar with the original stage musical, long before there was “Hamilton” Lin Manuel Miranda’s “In The Heights” took Broadway by storm and introduced us all to a new form of the Broadway musical winning Tony awards for Best Musical, Score, Choreography as well as Orchestrations and In essence, is Miranda’s love letter to his hometown. “In the Heights” fuses Lin-Manuel Miranda’s kinetic music and lyrics with director Jon M. Chu’s lively and authentic eye for storytelling to capture a world very much of its place, but universal in its experience. Family is the heart and soul of “In The Heights”. It’s about finding home and home is different for each character you meet.
The story explores 3 days in the life of a family and the people they are connected to that inhabit the New York City Latino neighborhood of Washington Heights. In Washington Heights, N.Y., the scent of warm coffee hangs in the air just outside of the 181st St. subway stop, where a kaleidoscope of dreams rallies a vibrant and tight-knit community. At the intersection of it all is a likable and magnetic bodega owner who hopes, imagines, and sings about a better life. It is that intersection of dreams and real life, where the streets are made of music and little dreams become big. It’s a tale of family and heritage and the legacy no matter who we are or where we come from we all hand down to generations to come and the longing for something better for your family.
This is a film that washes over you, envelops you as it transports you into this neighborhood. It takes the time needed to allow you to get to know each of the characters a little bit deeper than the stage show and you come away with a renewed optimism knowing that even though the people of all came from different places, they still come together with strength and love and portrays a celebratory and jubilant way of every day life, which sadly is not seen nearly enough in these times. Even as someone watching from the “outside” I quickly became invested in the characters and their lives and felt as though that these could be the people from my own neighborhood when I was growing up.
It’s a familiar feeling; one we all know and one that we want to invest in. Through the story comes familiarity and a sense of purpose. The film eloquently shows that everyone’s dreams, no matter how big or small they may be, are valid and need to be treated with the same amount of respect and love as possible. Dream big becomes is the universal message of Lin Manuel Miranda’s “In The Heights” that is seen through this scope of this tight-knit family, including one particular family that the story is intertwined around and showcases that although as in life, people can come from different places and want different things, there is the strength of the community that is found when we come together.
In Lin Manuel Miranda’s “In The Heights” there is no villain as such but rather fear that serves as the obstacle, and it is that fear that stands in between them from being able to achieve their dreams. It is something that all of us can relate to because at the end of the day, isn’t fear the ultimate obstacle that we all face? At its core, “In the Heights” is about the conflicts of trying to negotiate the traditions of two different cultures and somehow navigate, accept and meld them together. It is a story filled with hope and joy and shows the triumph of the human spirit and life in the celebratory light that we all need to see now more than ever.
The real stars of “In the Heights” are the production numbers, all-out extravaganzas of singing, dancing, and joy that make you want to get up and sing and dance and stay with you long after the movie is over. The opening sequence draws you in and is a feast for the eyes and ears: From the spectacular Busby Berkeley-inspired swimming pool number to a sultry nightclub scene and courtyard dance-off reminiscent of the Sharks and Jets, “In the Heights” pays homage to its movie-musical numbers of a time long ago witnessed through a new lens. Melding rap, salsa, merengue, and Latin pop, the big-screen version of “In the Heights” preserves what might be Miranda’s does better than anyone else of his time which is reframing American musical theater within an entirely familiar — yet specific, authentic, and invigorating — vernacular.
“In the Heights” stars Anthony Ramos (“A Star is Born,” Broadway’s “Hamilton”), Corey Hawkins (“Straight Outta Compton,” “BlacKkKlansman”), singer/songwriter Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera (TV’s “Vida”), Olga Merediz (Broadway’s “In the Heights”), Daphne Rubin-Vega (Broadway’s “Rent”), Gregory Diaz IV (Broadway’s “Matilda the Musical”), Stephanie Beatriz (TV’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”), Dascha Polanco (TV’s “Orange is the New Black”) and Jimmy Smits (the “Star Wars” films).
Chu directed the film from a screenplay by Quiara Alegría Hudes, based on the musical stage play, music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, book by Quiara Alegría Hudes, and concept by Miranda. Miranda, Hudes, Scott Sanders, Anthony Bregman and Mara Jacobs produced the film, with David Nicksay and Kevin McCormick serving as executive producers.
Behind the camera, Chu was reunited with his “Crazy Rich Asians” production designer, Nelson Coates, and editor, Myron Kerstein. He also collaborated with director of photography Alice Brooks (TV’s “The Walking Dead”) and costume designer Mitchell Travers (“Eighth Grade”). Original songs by Miranda. Alex Lacamoire (“Fosse/Verdon”) and Bill Sherman (“Sesame Street”) served as executive music producers. The choreography is by Christopher Scott, who previously teamed with Chu on the award-winning “The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers.” “In the Heights” was filmed in New York, primarily on location in the dynamic community of Washington Heights.
“In the Heights,” is so much more than just the story of a local bodega owner living on the beloved block of Washington Heights. Through the power of music, Lin Manuel Miranda tells the story of a man with a dream alongside the rest of his community members. This film shows the power of love, community, and reaching for your dreams. This weekend, grab the family and invite Lin Manuel Miranda’s “In The Heights” into your hearts and into your lives. It’s the jubilation and celebration of life that we all need, and one that will stay in your hearts long after the last credit rolls…. and yes, make sure you stay until the last credit has rolled
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