In The Heights (AU - PG/UK - PG/US - PG-13)

In a Word: Energetic

In the Heights

 Anthony Ramos stars as Usnavi and Melissa Barrera as Vanessa in In The Heights. PICTURE: Macall Polay/© 2019 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Before the phenomenal success of Hamilton, Lin Manuel Miranda’s experimental hip-hop musical debut was In The Heights. It took Broadway by storm in 2008, winning four Tony awards including Best Musical. 

In The Heights is a love letter to the New York neighbourhood of Washington Heights and the ethnic community that has made their home there. The story is told through the eyes of Usnavi (Anthony Ramos), a bodega owner who dreams of returning to the beaches of the Dominican Republic. From the future in this tropical paradise, Usnavi, tells a group of children the fabled story of In The Heights so they could remember such a special place with such wonderful people.

"At the heart of the musical is an illustration of the meaning of community. A culture of genuine caring for others and true generosity is what makes a place truly home. The story is a beautiful reminder of the importance of a loving community, no matter where in the world you may be, whether it be where I am writing this in Australia or In The Heights."

From the bodega, Usnavi introduces the colourful characters of the neighbourhood, each with their own little dream. This includes love interest Vanessa (Melissa Barrera) who dreams of being a fashion designer, the fast talking Benny (Corey Hawkins) who wants to run a business some day, cousin Sonny (Gregory Diaz IV) who is undocumented and needs a green card, Daniela (Daphne Rubin-Vega), a gossiping salon owner about to move to the Bronx, the studious Nina (Leslie Grace)  who has seemingly “made it” by going to the prestigious Stanford University, and the caring matriarch of the community, Claudia (Olga Merediz), who buys a lottery ticket in hopes of a better life.

This ensemble of intersecting families, friendships, dreams and romances paints a beautiful picture of what makes Washington Heights so special - the community. The plot itself is understated, portraying a neighbourhood on the brink of change as the inevitable gentrification of Manhattan extends over the island. The rising prices will soon see this neighbourhood’s way of life disappear, but nevertheless the community celebrates the beauty of what they have right now.

And celebrate they do, with spectacular dance numbers and rapid-fire lyrics. The streets, swimming pools, parks and buildings explode with colour as the cast and an army of dancers fill each scene with dynamic flips, tricks and synchronised gyrations. Director John M Chu (Crazy Rich Asians) reunites with choreographer Christopher Scott (LXD, The Step Up films) to ensure each performance is electric, filled with energetic and magical moments.

At the heart of the musical is an illustration of the meaning of community. A culture of genuine caring for others and true generosity is what makes a place truly home. The story is a beautiful reminder of the importance of a loving community, no matter where in the world you may be, whether it be where I am writing this in Australia or In The Heights.