Been putting this one off because there’s so much I wanna talk about that I don’t even know how to organize my thoughts. I’m sure whatever ends up on this page when I hit publish will only be a fraction of it, so I’ll cut straight to the chase and say In the Heights is EXACTLY everything that I want in a movie musical.
I never saw the stage version. I honestly didn’t have a whole lotta interest in it. Plot tends to be one of the biggest factors that draws me to a show, and on paper, this wasn’t doing it for me. The most exposure I’d had was performing No Me Diga with my college theater friends for one of our internal cabaret nights. I’d been recruited because we had a very small Latino contingent in the group, and one of them organized it. I don’t remember much other than my buddy Carlos singing the lead part with ginormous fake boobs. To me, at the time, the song felt very generic musical theater, so I never felt compelled to listen to the rest of the show. Man was I wrong. Also, not at all the best song to rep the show.
But at the same time, I enjoyed getting to discover this for the first time on the big screen. The magic of the musical numbers was palpable. The choreography, the beats, the lyrics (which were a little hard to hear at some points), everything was on point. My little bit of research after the fact tells me that there were a lot of changes in the adaptation that served the story well. I did have a few minor points of confusion with the structure and motivation, but since it was resolved and a spoiler, I’ll leave it at that.
One thing watching this made me feel was pride in my Hispanic heritage, even if that heritage often confuses me. Genetically speaking, I’m half Hispanic and half white, but I grew up on the border in a very Hispanic town, so that’s how I identify. Even though growing up there, I stood out for being not fully Hispanic. It wasn’t really until I left that I felt connected to that side, when I realized how much of what I grew up with was special to the region and the culture.
There’s a song in the movie where each group proudly raise a flag to represent their country or region of origin. In my family, we never really made a big deal about being Hispanic. It was more of a we’re-in-America-so-we’re-Americans kind of thing. Mom even gets upset if you classify her as the wrong flavor of Hispanic. I once got corrected for referring to myself as Latina, something about being able to trace our family to Spain, but to me it’s less about the label and the bloodlines and more about where and how I was raised. So while I felt like I wanted to jump up and wave my own flag, I also felt like I didn’t know what that flag was supposta be.
I did, however, fully grasp the love of NYC. My bestie has lived in Harlem, just south of the Heights for a while now. I know how much he loves his bodega, which ends up being the tiny center of his little universe. I absolutely loved how that was captured in the film, with the story revolving around the owners of one of those essential-is-an-understatement stores. I saw him post on FB after the movie, and he was brimming with love for his city, especially now that it’s starting to reopen and return to some semblance of its former glory.
The other thing I picked up on, the little Hamilton Easter eggs. Although my favorite part of that was that there was someone house right who also picked up on them. I’d hear loud solitary laughter at key moments from that side of the auditorium that was otherwise quiet. That was cute.
This is one of those movies that I wouldn’t be surprised if I used my A-List for a rewatch. It was that joyful and grand. Also, Anthony Ramos is destined to be a star. He’s been on the up and coming for a while, but hopefully this solidifies it.
Yup, so many more fragmented thoughts in my head that I can’t remember or articulate. Ah well, that’s where they’ll hafta stay.
In the Heights – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/