Realizing an Aspiration – In The Heights

The film In The Heights is winning in its depiction of the aspiration to realize a dream. In The Heights is a treat for fans of film musicals and big screen cinema.  This is not a film to be relegated to viewing on the small screen.

In The Heights is written by Quiara Alegría Hudes (Hamilton) based on the stage play created by Hudes and Lin Manuel-Miranda (Hamilton), with music and songs by Miranda.  It is directed by Jon Chu (Crazy Rich Asians, Now You See Me 2).

The aspirational foundation of In The Heights, is for people not to loose identification with (or connection to) a place in their life and dear to their heart.  In this case it is people of various types of Latino heritage living in the United States wishing to become part of the fabric of the U.S. and its culture, while not loosing connection and identification with their roots.

The male leads of In the Heights, Anthony Ramos (Hamilton, A Star is Born, Honest Thief) and Corey Hawkins (BlackkKlansman, Straight Out of Compton) take command of every scene in which they appear.  Both are strong actors, singers, and dancers.

The female leads of In The Heights, newcomers to major motion pictures Melissa Barrera and Leslie Grace, while great singers and dancers do not seem to command such attention.

However, where In The Heights shines, is with its smooth flow between storyline and song, ensemble cast, music, lyrics, and dancing.  The production values of In The Heights are excellent. In its presentation, In The Heights pays homage to musicals of the past and present day.

—-Jeff’s Thoughts and Other Worthless Trivia —-

Lin Manuel-Miranda first conceived of In The Heights while in High School.  It had its debut in 2005, off Broadway in 2007, and on Broadway in 2008.  The Musical was nominated for 12 Tony Awards and won 4 including Best Musical.  Miranda played the lead (Usnavi) on Broadway.  He played the role of Shaved Ice Vendor – Piragüero – in the film.

Washington Heights on Manhattan Island N.Y. has an interesting history.  It is the highest point on the island. Fort Washington of the Colonial Army was located in the area during the Revolutionary War.  Washington Heights was originally sparsely populated with mansions owned by the wealthy.  With the advent of the Subway, it developed into a place for the middle class Irish and Eastern Europeans to reside.  For periods of time from the mid 1900’s through today, German and Jewish Americans, Greek Americans, Puerto Rican Americans, Cuban Americans, Russian Americans and (currently) Dominican Americans have been the predominate population.  The drug wars of the 1980’s-2000’s caused a huge spike in crime in Washington Heights.  The Irish and Eastern Europeans left the area.  Since the early 2000’s crime has dropped dramatically in the area and Washington Height’s has experienced a material rejuvenation.  Washington Height’s has not been subject to transformation to the building of big skyrise complexes.

Melissa Barrera plays one of the two female leads (Vanessa) for In The Heights.  Melissa is from Monterrey Mexico, has a terrific voice and is a wonderful dancer.  However, one aspect of Melissa’s performance bothered me.  In the scenes with acting and talking dialog Melissa speaks with beautiful rich Latin American ascent.  In the scenes where Melissa sings she loses all aspects of the Latin linage and sounds like every other female from the U.S. who possess an indistinguishable squeaky voice on the Top 40 Pop Charts.  It was a bit unnerving to me.

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