Filled with incredible tunes, frames vibrating with color and dance, and the joy of living, “In the Heights” is a musical bound for Oscar glory.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, the genius behind the hit “Hamilton,” has created a Valentine to his Washington Heights neighborhood.
Miranda was a college student when he began to write a show that reflected his life as the son of Puerto Rican immigrant parents. He blended Latin rhythms, hip-hop and show tune melodies to create a Tony Award-winning stage show that’s now a movie.
It’s worth heading to the theater to enjoy the big-screen treatment this deserves.
The central character is Usnavi (Anthony Ramos, “A Star Is Born” and “Hamilton”) who wants to go back to the Dominican Republic, where his father once had a beach kiosk.
The movie begins with Usnavi talking to a group of children on a beach, then goes back in time to a sequence where Usnavi – you’ll love how he got his name – introduces the main characters, including Abuela Clauda (Olga Merediz) and Usnavi’s cousin Sonny (Gregory Diaz IV).
Usnavi is not-so-secretly in love with Vanessa (Melissa Barrera), who longs to become a fashion designer but works in a salon.
The characters endure disappointment, grief, and circumstances beyond their control. And all the way through, Miranda surprises the audience with eye-popping visuals, including a Busy Berkeley-type dance number in a crowded pool and two sweethearts who begin a gorgeous, gravity-defying dance.
And the music … oh, the music … is full of the kind of Miranda rapid-patter, witty rhymes and melodies that made “Hamilton” such a hit. I especially love “96,000,” about how the characters would spend the money from a winning lottery ticket.
Miranda himself is the focus in a sequence in which he plays a vendor of shaved-ice treats.
Embrace “In the Heights” and you’ll embrace the joy of a hopeful summer.
Running time: Two hours and 23 minutes.
Rated: PG-13 for suggestive language and coarse language.
At Cinemark, Davenport; Regal, Moline; and Palms 10, Muscatine; and streaming on HBO Max.