Is Lin-Manuel Miranda’s ‘In The Heights’ changing musical movies forever?
In the Heights, the musical from Lin-Manuel Miranda, makes its way to theaters today. The show first opened on Broadway in 2008, and a movie adaptation was greenlit almost immediately. It’s taken over a decade for the adaptation to land on the silver screen, and that decade has been filled with some of the biggest movie musicals in ages.
2016’s La La Land swept up awards left and right. Mama Mia! Here We Go Again revived a classic in 2018. Theaters have also been filled with a variety of musical biopics like 2018’s Bohemian Rhapsody and 2019’s Rocketman. There haven’t been this many big-budget movie musicals since the genre’s Golden Age back in the 1950s.
After a year of Covid-19 and widespread closures, movie theaters are just now beginning to open their doors across the world. People are looking for a reason to return, and the magic of In the Heights offers just that. Some think that this is the movie musical that will kick off a new Golden Age.
In the Heights was the debut musical from creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is best known these days for his groundbreaking work on Hamilton. Unless you’ve spent the last half-decade or so living on a desert island, chances are you’re well aware of the musical about America’s founding. When it came to Broadway it was, without a doubt, the hottest show around. A filmed performance on Disney+ has grown its popularity.
Quiara Alegría Hudes worked with Lin-Manuel Miranda and wrote the book for In the Heights. She recently spoke with writer Hanna Flint about the power of musicals. “Musicals have staying power because they are not just their own subgenre – they incorporate contemporary and different genres of music that’s only to the benefit of audiences,” she said.
Hudes explained that it’s part of human nature to respond to music & rhythm. Our own hearts beat in rhythm, so it’s literally a part of our physiology. When times get tough, people turn to music for relaxation, comfort, and joy. That’s part of why the first Golden Age of movie musicals came after the end of World War Two. It may be why musicals are having a resurgence now.
In the Heights
When Lin-Manuel Miranda & Quiara Alegría Hudes created In the Heights, they wanted to break down the notion of a single hero as a protagonist. Hudes said, “We rise and fall together. The community is the lead character”. The centering of community at this moment is even more impactful than it was back in 2008.
Why go to the theater when you can watch the same movie at home? That’s the question many people are asking themselves in the wake of the pandemic, and it’s one that filmmakers and theaters will need to work together to answer. There needs to be a new emphasis on theatergoing as a community & cultural experience. Musicals have a more powerful quality when they’re experienced with a group of other people.
Speaking with Hanna Flint, Jon M. Chu, the director of the In the Heights film, said, “At this moment, I think people are plugging into something, because just words aren’t sufficient to get us through these times”. He voiced his hopes that the joyous depiction of a community coming together throughout In the Heights gives people inspiration to form stronger communities in our post-pandemic world.
In the Heights won’t be the last musical we see from Lin-Manuel Miranda. Later this year his film Tick, Tick… Boom! will land on Netflix and at select theaters. Whether or not this is the dawn of a new Golden Age for musicals remains to be seen, but we’re thankful for all the songs either way.
Will you be heading to the theater for the opening weekend of In the Heights? Let us know in the comments!