I saw Lin Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights last night but, by the time I got my backside into that seat, Chris Ramirez had already seen it three times. It holds a special place in his heart, having performed years of musical theater and even recently portrayed “Sonny” in the Dallas Theater Center version. Here’s his review and check out his bio at the end to see what Chris is working on, including a play about pro-wrestling!
This summer, theaters nationwide are showing the film adaption of Lin Manuel Miranda’s 2008 masterpiece In The Heights. I saw it on Broadway in 2009 and, as a Latino, I had never felt the amount of pride and representation in a theater before. The rumor mill said that a film version (starring Lin Manuel Miranda, Jennifer Lopez and Antonio Banderas) was in the works and I couldn’t have been more excited! For years, the movie was stuck in limbo and I lost hope. Lin aged out of playing Usnavi and HAMILTON became the new toy everyone wanted to play with. When the announcement came that the movie was FINALLY being made, you can imagine how enthralled I was. I was even playing “Sonny” at the Dallas Theater Center when the trailer and poster were released!!! I had the opportunity to see the film and all I can say is it was worth the wait.
From the second it starts, director Jon M. Chu makes it clear that In the Heights will lean into stylization and magic. I mean…the opening song was executed TO PERFECTION. The films ability to capture Latinidad, community, family, love, culture, and characters within the first musical number had me in ugly tears 4 minutes in. They didn’t stop for the next two and a half hours…and that’s ok! The cinematic style and musical numbers work so well together that you will want to hop up and move those hips with the actors on screen. Speaking of which, the acting in this film is so truthful and heartfelt, you’ll feel as if you know and understand the people of Washington Heights. The dialogue from Quiara Alegrìa Hudes, who also wrote the book for the stage version, is phrased so beautifully. I will be shocked if she doesn’t get an Academy Award nomination.
If you are a fan of the stage version, it’s important to know that things were cut, moved around, and changed to accommodate the length. This isn’t a bad thing. I actually support every decision and change they made because a direct scene-by scene-copy would not translate well. Jon, Lin, and Quiara also had to move things around for the emotional arc and pacing of the story. Don’t worry, it is still the In the Heights musical we all know and love. There are even some great cameos and easter eggs for long time fans.
If you are fully vaccinated and get the chance to see In the Heights in the theater, I highly recommend it. This touching story of sueñitos (dreams) and community is one to be shared WITH people. Laughing and crying with strangers when I watched it at a theater is a memory I hold so close to my heart and will not soon forget. It may have taken over 10 years for this to finally come out, but In The Heights delivered and will serve as a reminder that Lin Manuel Miranda created a masterpiece before HAMILTON. I leave you with Lin’s own words, “Esta bonita bandera, contiene mi alma entera, Y cuando yo me muera, entierrame en mi tierra!” WEPA! (This beautiful flag holds my entire soul, and when I die, bury me with it in my land.)