Movie musicals making their way from under the glaring stage lights to the big screen can be a big game of hit-or-miss.
‘In the Heights’ hit each and every mark, making a successful transition from the stage.
Written by the five-time Tony Award-winner and ‘Hamilton’ creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, ‘In the Heights’ brings viewers to the heart of New York City-- Washington Heights.
Part of what determines the success of a movie-musical is the casting. When it’s coming straight from the stages of Broadway, one thing that can lead to a flop movie is casting someone for their Hollywood fame rather than their musical abilities.
This usually comes about when directors are looking to draw people in for the money and not for the feelings musicals typically aim to express to their viewers.
It’s safe to say that this film has some of the best casting for a movie-musical. Not only does Miranda play a minor character himself, but leading the cast is Anthony Ramos, who’s no stranger to the stage, as he’s performed in several off-Broadway productions and originated the roles of John Laurens and Phillip Hamilton in ‘Hamilton.’
There are also cameos of several other Broadway performers such as Chris Jackson, Patrick Page, and even members of the original ensemble of the stage production of ‘In the Heights.’
A slight risk was taken by the casting committee, however, as the rest of the four main characters aren’t actors with a lot of well-known roles under their belts.
This risk paid off, though, as each actor encapsulated their roles and brought to life their characters effortlessly.
The choreography of the film is astounding. Traditional Latinx dancing mixed in with some modern twists helps bring the songs to life even more than the voices. Plus it’s nice to see Latinx culture emphasized.
The dances and songs are so upbeat, and the cast does such an amazing job at expressing their characters’ emotions, that it’s hard not to want to get up and dance along with them.
There are a couple of dream-like scenes that I wasn’t the biggest fan of, but all-in-all, I understand what the end goal was, and it still worked for the moment.
Perhaps the greatest part of this film is its story-telling. We learn that Washington Heights is a primarily Latinx community that’s slowly falling apart as its people move on to newer things.
The central story is that of dreams -- chasing them, finding them, or even just realizing what they are to you.
The film shows us characters with dreams of staying where they are but making a better life, dreams of leaving town to finish what others started but didn’t have a chance to finish, and dreams of finding out who you are meant to be.
As you watch these characters work through their lives and discover what their dreams are and how to accomplish them, it becomes clear that the dreams of everyone -- real people, not just fictional characters -- can be accomplished in ways no one realized before.
The home you’ve been searching for can be a simple repainting away. The love of your life can be the person you’ve always known. And your dreams can be so much closer than you ever considered.