After a year of pandemic-induced delays, it’s finally lights up on “In the Heights,” a movie adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first Broadway smash.
The Warner Bros. musical, directed by Jon M. Chu, opens in cinemas and on HBO Max on June 10 — and the timing couldn’t be better. As COVID-19 rates drop and people continue to get inoculated, the arrival of “In the Heights” reflects the joyous revival of a city that was among the hardest hit by the global health crisis. There’s a reason why Chu has called the larger-than-life movie “a vaccine for your soul.”
“In the Heights” takes place in the Washington Heights neighborhood of upper Manhattan and tells the story of Usnavi (Anthony Ramos of “Hamilton” fame), a bodega owner who longs to return home to the Dominican Republic. He’s surrounded by a close-knit community of dreamers, including his longtime crush, the aspiring fashion designer Vanessa (Melissa Barrera), as well as Nina (Leslie Grace), Usnavi’s childhood friend who returns to the neighborhood after her first year at Stanford University, and her on-and-off love interest Benny (Corey Hawkins), who works at her father’s taxi dispatch. Uniting them all during a scorching-hot summer is Abuela Claudia (Olga Merediz), the block’s beloved matriarch. (She’s not really their “Abuela” but she practically raised them; the corner is her escuela.)
For Chu, the almost entirely Latino cast of “In the Heights” presents an opportunity to shed light on a group that doesn’t often get its due at the center of a major summer blockbuster.
“We have to invite people into our world,” Chu says of portraying any underrepresented culture. “After a pandemic especially, people need leadership to open up their hearts again. And ‘In the Heights’ is the ultimate connection movie.”
Click here to read Variety’s cover story on the decade-long journey to bring “In the Heights” to a movie theater (or HBO Max account) near you, and keep reading to get to know the cast of the film.