In the heights, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical is making its way into theaters today. The show opened on Broadway in 2008, and a film adaptation was given the green light almost immediately. It took over a decade for the adaptation to hit the big screen, and that decade has been filled with some of the greatest movie musicals of all time.
2016 La La Land swept the rewards left and right. Mama Mia! Here we go again relaunched a classic in 2018. Theaters were also filled with a variety of musical biopics like those of 2018 Bohemian Rhapsody and 2019 Rocket man. There haven’t been as many big budget musicals since the genre’s heyday in the 1950s.
After a year of Covid-19 and widespread closings, theaters are just starting to open around the world. People are looking for a reason to come back, and the magic of In the heights offers just that. Some believe it’s the musical that will kick off a new golden age.
In the heights was the first musical from creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is best known nowadays for his groundbreaking work on Hamilton. Unless you’ve spent the last half a decade living on a desert island, chances are you are well acquainted with the musical on the founding of America. When it came to Broadway, it was without a doubt the hottest show around. A performance filmed on Disney + gained 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 power because they’re not just their own sub-genre – they incorporate contemporary and different genres of music that only benefit audiences,” she said.
Hudes explained that it’s human nature to react to music and rhythm. Our own hearts beat in rhythm, so that’s literally a part of our physiology. When times are tough, people turn to music for relaxation, comfort and joy. This is partly why the first golden age of motion picture musicals came after the end of World War II. Maybe that’s why musicals are experiencing a resurgence now.
In the heights
When Lin-Manuel Miranda & Quiara Alegría Hudes created In the heights, they wanted to shatter the notion of a single hero as the protagonist. Hudes said, “We go up and down together. The community is the main character ”. The community focus right now is even more impactful than it was in 2008.
Why go to the movies when you can watch the same movie at home? That’s the question many people are asking in the wake of the pandemic, and it’s a question filmmakers and theaters will need to work together to answer. Emphasis must be placed on theater as a community and cultural experience. Musicals have a more powerful quality when experienced with a group of other people.
Speaking to Hanna Flint, Jon M. Chu, the director of In the heights film, said, “Right now, I think people are tapping into something, because words aren’t enough to get us through these times.” He expressed his hope that the joyful representation of a community coming together throughout In the heights gives people the inspiration to build stronger communities in our post-pandemic world.
In the heights won’t be the last musical we will see from Lin-Manuel Miranda. Later that year his film Tic, Tic… Boom! will land on Netflix and in select theaters. Whether it’s the dawn of a new golden age for musicals remains to be seen, but we’re grateful for all the songs anyway.
Are you going to the theater for the opening weekend of In the heights? Let us know in the comments!