In the Heights: The summer movie musical we all need


Photo Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios

Poster for the new musical In the Heights

Life in Washington Heights is vibrant, yet excruciatingly difficult for Latin-Americans. Director John M. Chu’s adaptation of the popular 2008 Broadway musical, In the Heights, explores Latin-American culture in New York with fresh eyes. 

The story centers on Usnavi de la Venga, a nearly-thirty-something bodega owner (Anthony Ramos). De la Venga is eager to pursue his sueñito (little dream) of moving back to the Dominican Republic whilst his friends Nina (Leslie Grace) and Vanessa (Melissa Barrera) want to pursue their respective sueñitos of getting a higher education and working as a fashion designer. 

The plot tackles complex socio-economic and racial barriers that make achieving these goals difficult. These heavy themes are brilliantly sprinkled in between elaborate dance numbers. 

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s phenomenal soundtrack from the original Broadway show remains in the film with the addition of a new closing song, “Home All Summer.” Despite its age, the music proves to have the same captivating effect as the cast delivers powerful raps, hard-hitting ballads and highly choreographed ensemble numbers. 

You can’t help but tear up during emotional songs like “Atencion” or want to get up and dance during “96,000.” 

Christopher Scott’s unique usage of CGI, quirky camera angles and props in his choreography help to immediately captivate viewers and immerse them in the world that is Washington Heights. This immersion into the celebration of Latino culture is only furthered by the intricate set and costume designs by Nelson Coates and Mitchell Travers. Traditional and modern-day pieces worn by Latin-Americans grace the screens, providing viewers with a colorful representation of Hispanic heritage.

The plot itself is highly engaging. The storyline gets off to a slow start, but once the characters are introduced, it picks up steam. It’s difficult to follow at times because each character has their own storyline and some of the Spanish dialogue is also challenging to understand if you don’t know the language. 

Overall though, the film did a great job at remaining faithful to the original production whilst adding modern nuances that strengthen the impact and relatability of the story. I would highly recommend In the Heights to anyone looking for a heartwarming and energetic summer movie.