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Monday, June 14, 2021
I have listened to the "In the Heights" Broadway cast album countless times over the years. It is part of a July tradition for me.
When I finally got a chance to see it performed live, both times "Alabanza" made me cry.
When they released the trailer for the movie, the "We are Claudia's Dream" sign got me.
I saw one critic mention that they were still in the thick of grief and didn't think they could give the movie a fair shake.
I knew going in, I was going to be emotional. In my case I worried that I would like it too much, because I needed it to be good.
Well, I liked it. It's easy, when seeing a thing in a different form, to dwell on the changes. There are some, for sure.
The themes of hope and home are still there. It is a love letter to a neighborhood, to a cross section of diasporan Latinx folks, with different dreams and plans, but all trying to support each other. The essence is the same. There are songs, and dancing, and fireworks. Nina is back from a disappointing year at Stanford, her dad is worried about money, Usnavi is close to getting back to the Dominican Republic, but also could maybe see an eye to asking out Vanessa. Maybe.
Some new bits are layered in, references to a Carribean hurricane, to the DREAM Act, and to racial profiling.
The trick with filmed musicals is taking advantage of the cinematic opportunities, but also not going so big you lose your characters. There is some amazing cinematography. Beautiful choreography. Enough of it was filmed on location that it feels like New York. And there are enough extras and ensemble members that it feels like New York.
They use a lot of film tricks and even CGI and there was one point where I thought, was there any trick they didn't try? But it was also fun. So many moments where it looked fun and felt fun to watch.
And yes, I cried.
It's interesting. I love filmed musicals, because I know it's an embarrassment of riches in normal times with the access to theater I have here, and I also know some of the earliest theater I watched was filmed musicals. They make it more accessible to more people. But sometimes, like the "Rent" movie, I feel like it's more of an intro. Like, the "Rent" movie is a taster, and if you are into it, then you should go get the real thing. I think the "In the Heights" movie is a whole thing. And if you love it, you could also keep an eye out for local productions.