Preview: In the Heights

After years of development hell, the trailer for Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical adaptation finally hits online ahead of its June 2021 release

Tom Wrath
22nd March 2021
Image: IMDb

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first musical comes to the screen in the much-anticipated cinematic adaptation of the tony-award winning production, portraying the trials and tribulations of life in Washington Heights.

Originally touted to release in 2020 after ten years in development hell, we can expect a neat balance of humour, wholesomeness, and emotion from the project, directed by Jon. M Chu (Crazy Rich Asians, 2018), primarily produced by its creator Miranda, and starring Broadway sensations Anthony Ramos (Hamilton, Richard Rogers theatre) and Daphne-Rubin Vega (Rent, Nederlander theatre).

Those acquainted with Miranda’s original Broadway score (2008) will understand its meticulous and poignant lyricism, Latino-inspired melodies, and innovative use of rap. A true pioneer of musical theatre, Miranda’s big-screen appearances have been surprisingly steady; composing the full score for Moana (2014), sporadically producing songs alongside John Williams for the recent Star Wars movies - The Force Awakens (2015) and The Rise of Skywalker (2019) - and even starring with Emily Blunt in Mary Poppins Returns (2018).

musical fans can expect huge ensemble numbers and gorgeous cinematography, with great realism in its emotional resonance

There is a nice element of circularity in his first musical comprising his cinematic debut; of course, this is dependent on whether you choose to include the live recording of Hamilton (2020) as ‘big-screen’ or not, although the world is holding out for a proper cinema adaptation of the record-breaking musical someday (let’s hope Russell Crowe stays away from this one).

Screenplay from novelist and original book writer Quiara Alegria Hudes will only enhance the authenticity of the movie, with filming carried out on location in Washington Heights overseen by Miranda, and original cast member Olga Merediz reprising her principle role as ‘Abuela’ to provide semblance of character consistency between musical and movie.

Image: IMDb

Signified by a packed and vivacious trailer, musical fans can expect huge ensemble numbers and gorgeous cinematography, with great realism in its emotional resonance, somewhere between the idealistic La La Land (2016), and the grounded, gritty Rent (2005). Indeed Jon M. Chu has previously expressed his love of dance, founding the AC/DC troupe and directing the second and third instalments of the Step Up franchise.

Chu's direction promises palpable energy and gorgeous cinematography, and one hopes all the colour and dynamism learnt from Crazy Rich Asians translates into enthusiastic and vivacious storytelling on In the Heights.

In the Heights has been understated, unanticipated and a long time coming, overshadowed by the Disney+ release of Hamilton: The Broadway Production (2020), delayed by development issues, then a global pandemic. However, based on current evidence, and knowing the Broadway production inside-out, we may need to prepare for the movie-musical event of the decade.

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