Anthony Ramos as Usnavi in 'In The Heights'. Picture: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc
Anthony Ramos as Usnavi in 'In The Heights'. Picture: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc

'In The Heights’ will leave you crying, laughing and give you a sense of hope

By Jamal Grootboom Time of article published Jun 10, 2021

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Based on the Tony award-winning Broadway musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda, “In The Heights” is the perfect endorphin rush we need right now.

Rating: 5/5

The musical follows a range of characters in Washington Heights on the edge of Marathon, New York City.

At the centre of the story, we follow Usnavi (Anthony Ramos), a bodega (grocery store) owner who is taking care of the matriarch of the neighbourhood, Abuela Claudia (Olga Merediz), pines for the gorgeous girl Vanessa (Melissa Barrera) working in the neighbouring beauty salon and dreams of winning the lottery and escaping to the shores of his native Dominican Republic.

My journey with “In The Heights” is very interesting.

Back in university, I stumbled across “Wicked” on YouTube and immediately fell in love with the Tony award-winning musical.

During my endless search for all things Elphaba-related, I stumbled across the soundtrack for “In The Heights”, and there was something about the music that spoke to me.

Years later the “Hamilton” craze hits the theatre community and I paid it no mind, since even though I was in New York City at the height of the show, getting tickets was impossible; however, I watched “Wicked” on Broadway, which was life-changing.

When Disney announced that “Hamilton” was making it was to their streaming service, I finally joined the Hamilstans, and that’s when I connected the dots with Lin-Manuel, the creator of both shows.

One of the best quotes I saw about both shows while scrolling through the internet was that you can’t be a “Hamilton” stan without being a fan of “In The Heights”.

And it’s true – in many ways “In The Heights” gave the building blocks for “Hamilton” and now in its feature film adaptation, the magic from the Broadway show is amplified and put on a cinema screen.

Director Jon M Chu has done what very few have been able to, and that is make a stage production work in film format.

The way this musical is filmed feels so organic and keeps the pace of the film going, without the songs ever feeling out of place.

Perfectly making you feel like the only way to express the emotion at that moment is through song.

One thing about a Lin-Manuel project is that the singing and dancing will always be on point, and this film is no different.

The music score is phenomenal. Lin-Manuel’s long-time collaborator, Alex Lacamoire, is once again at the helm with the musical score and it’s truly a dream to listen to, perfectly underpinning the right emotional moments during the film.

The dance choreography is great and Jon captured it amazingly on film,

What I appreciate most about Lin-Manuel is that he, the casting agent and director didn’t go for people based on name recognition, with Lin-Manuel bringing back several talented people he's worked with before including Anthony Ramos and Olga Merediz, who originated the role of Abuela Claudia on Broadway.

The whole cast does a phenomenal job not only on the singing side but acting and dancing too. The level of talent in this musical is amazing and having great vocalists in the film just adds to it.

When I tell you I was crying for a large portion of this film, it’s only due to the singing but the relatability of the story and characters.

Maybe it’s because I’m a POC (person of colour), but being able to relate to a musical based around a Latinx community fighting against gentrification along with tackling the DREAMers and immigration struggle currently in the States, which was added for the movie, shouldn’t be able to have a sense of universality, but it does.

In the film’s runtime, I was so emotionally invested in every character, and that speaks to how capable Lin-Manuel and Jon were in making this film not only be a fun ride but one with a message that can resonate with many people.

For my fellow Hamilstans, there’s a little Easter egg along with a cameo from someone who starred in the original run of “In The Heights” and “Hamilton” on Broadway.

“In The Heights” is one of the best musical adaptations, Jon and Lin-Manuel should be proud of what they did.

This film will have you laughing, crying and give you a sense of hope, something we all need in these times.

Watching “In The Heights” it also gives me hope for the “Wicked” film adaptation, which Jon is also at the helm of.

In The Heights” is showing in cinemas nationwide from June 11.

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