This review is spoiler-free.
With the huge success of Hamilton, hearing Lin-Manuel Miranda’s name attached to anything means you know you’re in for a good time. In The Heights successfully celebrates Latino culture, set to the back drop of Washington Heights and has some outstanding musical numbers.
Jon M. Chu directs this movie adaptation of the musical written by Miranda which opened on Broadway in 2008, fabulously paying homage to the Manhattan distract of Washington Heights. The story is told through the eyes of Usnavi, played by Miranda’s Hamilton co-star, Anthony Ramos, a loveable, hardworking young man with aspirations of selling up his bodega to make it back home to the Dominican Republic and open his own beach bar. He falls for Vanessa (Melissa Barrera), who works at the beauty salon nearby and is struggling to make her way into the fashion industry. An adjacent love story running throughout sees Benny (Corey Hawkins) rekindle a relationship with his ex-girlfriend, Nina (Leslie Grace) who feels the weight of the community on her shoulders after making it to Stanford.
Patience and faith are values running throughout this and each core character experiences troubles at times in holding onto these while striving to fulfil their dreams. Each one of them are so likeable and as a viewer you easily build connections to them. There are some familiar faces as part of the ensemble. Stephanie Beatriz and Dascha Polanco are so entertaining and enjoyable to watch and Lin-Manuel himself makes a few fun cameos. You’ll find yourself falling in love with Abuela Claudia (Olga Merediz) and Gregory Diaz IV deserves his very own standing ovation as Usnavi’s cousin, Sonny. A cheeky nod to Hamilton didn’t go unnoticed either and hearing ‘You’ll Be Back’ playing over the phone while Kevin is kept on hold was very much appreciated.
The musical numbers are bright and vibrant with a perfect blend of hip hop, r’n’b and Latino beats. The opening number ‘In The Heights’ is joyous and hooks your attention straight away. The production on some of them are incredible, in particular ‘96,000’ is simply show stopping as it gives the ultimate example of what the perfect song and setting can do. It also holds a moment where Gregory Diaz IV shines with some very impressive rap skills. ‘When You’re Home’ is another which is shot beautifully and really showcases a place Miranda clearly holds very dearly. ‘When The Sun Goes Down’ is a beautiful mid tempo r’n’b ballad and the visual styling to this song really reminded me of The Greatest Showman’s Rewrite The Stars.
With Covid restrictions easing and the slow return of live musical theatre, this is the perfect way to reintroduce the experience to the public. In The Heights is an uplifting story, tackling prejudice and affirms the power of believing in yourself, whilst showing off all things involved in Latino culture. It’s full of charm, romance and packs huge amounts of happy.