In the Heights

By Joanna Langfield

We’ve earned this one.

Surprisingly, Jon M. Chu’s adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony award winning musical hits even deeper, debuting as it is, after this past year. It would be wonderful to splash into the joy of this love story at any time, but now, the effervescence of it all feels especially sweet, the intended lessons, even more meaningful.

For those unfamiliar, this is not just a conventional love story between young lovers, but a loving salute to the Latinx culture of New York’s Washington Heights. This is a neighborhood that may look to some as if it is on its last legs, but those legs are very strong, bringing a community any of us would want to share. While there are big, beautiful dance numbers, my favorite moments are the smaller ones, where a family of friends gathers for a dinner, or a gorgeous ballet that’s truly magical. The fact that this was filmed on the streets of the Heights brings an appreciated integrity, of course, but now also feels poignant and profound, a salute to a New York that went through hell and is determined to thrive again.

Miranda regular Anthony Ramos shines, as do his co-stars Melissa Barrera and Leslie Grace. Corey Hawkins makes a most auspicious leading man debut, clearly a star. And I loved what veterans Olga Merediz and Jimmy Smits bring to the show. Because Chu has wisely made this very much a show, which helps us push aside some real issues with a script that tries to cover too much territory and leaves some frustrating open questions.

Hamillton-aholics like myself can also have a good time, discovering or maybe re-visiting Miranda’s earlier work, picking up on similarities between the two pieces. Not only do both center on immigrants from the islands, on their own and finding their way uptown, but, creatively, it’s fun to recognize shared stylistic and melodic themes, as well as a few familiar faces.

Enjoy. Doesn’t that feel good?