In The Heights

Lin-Manuel Miranda's first Broadway hit In The Heights is finally coming to the silver screen in one of the most anticipated movie releases of 2021. Peter Gray reports.

Credit: Macall Polay/Warner Bros

There are more than a few blockbuster musicals waiting to be adapted for the screen. Though Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, and now Cats have all found their place on the screen, the new guard of popular musicals has yet to translate as well to the multiplex.

Wicked’s inevitable adaptation is in the works, but not moving full-steam ahead; Miss Saigon has apparently been stalled, considering there’s been little word on it since around 2016, when Danny Boyle was in talks to direct (god, imagine that); and we’re no closer to getting another Sondheim in the cinema. Do Assassins, you cowards!

Anyway, one musical that’s sure to find some home in the multiplex one day is Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop musical that was less a show than a Cultural Moment.

Harping on about its relevance coming near the end of Obama’s cosy-liberal era as president would be to miss its many artistic achievements; yet, it is hard to deny the impact of the show, probably the most famous new musical of the last decade. What a strange revelation, then, that Miranda’s movie musical coming in less than year is not a big-screen version of the show that sky-rocketed him to fame, but his more modest first show, In the Heights.

The show, set in the Hispanic-American neighbourhood of Washington Heights, New York, first appeared as a student theatre production at Miranda’s Wesleyan University in 1999. From those humble beginnings, it then made a slow journey to an Off-Broadway show, then a three-year stint Broadway, and finally a US tour.

It almost feels brave to have taken this to Warner Bros first, considering that Hamilton is, well, Hamilton. But then, that’s the power Miranda has, a genuine star of both musical theatre and movie music (his excellent work on Moana – the best any Disney movie has had since Alan Menken’s early days – is testament to that).

As an NYC love story, its most obvious roots are in West Side Story – interesting considering that a remake of said film will be out next year too. In any case, it will star Hamilton cast-member and up-and-comer Anthony Ramos as Usnavi de la Vega, a role originated by Miranda in the show.

Joining him is singer Leslie Grace as belle of the ball and the other half of the central romance, Nina Rosario. Rounding out the near-entire Latin-American cast are singer Melissa Barrera; Star Wars heavy Jimmy Smits; Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Stephanie Beatriz; Miranda himself; and, in the only non-Spanish-speaking role in the show originally played by Christopher Jackson (Hamilton’s George Washington) is Corey Hawkins, straight out of Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman and an upcoming Michael Bay film.

It doesn’t have the weight of the bigger musicals it precedes, which might work in its favour. Without expectations except from Miranda’s most ardent fans, it might be a genuine sleeper hit of sorts.

For more information on In The Heights, please click here.

For information on other forthcoming movies in London, please click here.

-London's Best Events-
What: musical drama film
When: 18 June 2021
Where: cinemas nationwide
Website: IMDB