Is In the Heights The Next Big Thing in Movie Musicals
The first time I saw In the Heights on the Tony awards I wasn’t sure I would relate to it and enjoy it.
However, when it toured through Denver we had a chance to grab some last minute tickets to see the production and wow!
I loved it!
Its fresh outlook, fabulous music, incredible dancing and story won me over right from the beginning.
I think we will all be thrilled with the new movie version. The reviewers are raving about it! Check out In the Heights on Broadway
What is the story of In the Heights?
In the Heights tells the universal story of a vibrant community in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood – a place where the coffee from the corner bodega is light and sweet, the windows are always open, and the breeze carries the rhythm of three generations of music. It’s a community on the brink of change, full of hopes, dreams, and pressures, where the biggest struggles can be deciding which traditions you take with you, and which ones you leave behind.
What makes In the Heights so long awaited?
Where do I begin to answer this question.
I create drama education lessons and In the Heights was one of the first Broadway musicals which I examined. Although I greatly enjoyed the musical, I never thought about the elements which would be terrific to teach in the classroom. Oh. my. gosh!
Five Reasons to See In the Heights
1.Family viewing--First, the show is suitable for your family, ages 11 and up. That’s a big plus because it means the family could have a special outing and see the film together. Hooray! (If you parents are okay with just a little language, then you can see it without any trepidations.)
2. Message–An important part of a play or musical is its message. In the Heights doesn’t disappoint in this manner with a message of hope and optimism. Don’t we all need hope?
The Next Big Thing in Movie Musicals
3. Setting–Many areas of New York City are hotbeds of cultural exchange and diffusion, and Washington Heights is no exception. This neighborhood has transformed drastically over the years as the majority ethnic group in the area changes. Today, the large majority of residents are hispanic, and thus, the neighborhood is sometimes referred to as “Quisqeya Heights,” referring to a municipality in the Dominican Republic. While traces of previous cultures remain such as the Jewish population and the Irish and Germans, the area is extremely rich in Latino food, religion, events, and languages.
4. Diversity--How refreshing to see a musical about a very vibrant and important culture in our country. The Latino people deserve some recognition for their presence here and I, for one, am thrilled to see this!
5. Music–How can you beat Lin-Manuel Miranda’s music? Clever, appropriate, spicey in all the good ways.
6. Dancing--Have you seen the dancing? Chris Scott’s choreography is spot on. If you aren’t familiar with him, Christopher Scott is a three-time Emmy-nominated choreographer whose bold routines and fearless creativity step beyond the traditional boundaries of dance. He is most recognized for his innovative hip-hop duets and signature group routines that fuse dance styles on Fox’s SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE. Here’s an example of his work from the movie trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4CRPvel2Vc
The Origin of In the Heights
Miranda wrote the earliest draft of In the Heights in 1999 his freshman year of college. After the show was accepted by Wesleyan University’s student theater company Second Stage, Miranda added “freestyle rap … bodegas, and salsa numbers.”[
It played from April 27 to 29, 2000 as an 80-minute, one-act show that reportedly sounded like “A hip-hop version of Rent“. After seeing the play, two Wesleyan seniors and two alumni, John Buffalo Mailer, Neil Patrick Stewart, Anthony Veneziale and Thomas Kail, approached Miranda and asked if the play could be expanded with a view to a Broadway production. In 2002, Miranda worked with director Kail and wrote five separate drafts of In the Heights.Book writer Quiana Alegría Hudes joined the team in 2004.
The rest, as they say, is history….
In the Heights Broadway Musical Lesson
As I mentioned, I have a lesson about In the Heights. In fact, I have several–one is a PDF, one is digital and one is for the Google classroom.
This two-day lesson focuses on the Tony award winning In the Heights musical. In the Heights tells the story of a vibrant Hispanic community in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood. Students have an opportunity to become very familiar with the production itself and its journey to Broadway.
HOW DO I USE THIS LESSON IN MY CLASSROOM? A drama, music, reading or a language arts class would enjoy this lesson. Study its music, story line, elements, cultural references–you name it!
The lesson contains:
- Letter to Teacher
- Warm Up–MY Version of a Popular Acting Exercise
- Teacher’s Script–What I Say and How I Say it!
- Photos of Lin Manuel Miranda
- Synopsis of the Musical
- Plot of the Musical
- Short Biography about Lin Manuel Miranda, book writer Quiara Alegria Hudes and choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler
- Separate File of Photos for Teacher’s Use in Lecture
- History about the Origination of the Production
- AND a Mini Lesson on: What are the Tony Awards?
- List of Tony Awards
- New York City Map with Competing Theaters Labeled
- Student Note Page
- Teacher Note Page Key
- Trivia about Broadway and In the Heights
- Songs List
- Pinterest Board Link Specifically about In the Heights
- Extension Activities– NINE Terrific Suggestions of Ways to Secure the Learning and Enrich the Experience either Individual or Group
- Sources & Links to Film Clips from the Show
- And More!
I can’t believe In the Heights first opened on Broadway in 2008! It just seems like yesterday when my husband and I left singing and dancing our way to the parking lot afterward. (That’s a great memory for us.)
If you’d like more information about Lin-Manuel Miranda or my Hamilton lesson, check out these posts Hamilton the Musical: A Drama Lesson with a Unique Perspective or want to have your students create their own musical (at least the beginning steps), check out Create Your Own Musical
In the Heights opens in select theaters on June 4, 2021. It’s full of wonderful elements, themes and messages which we all need to hear. What do you like most about the show? You know, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Contact me at DhcBaldwin@gmail.com or DeborahBaldwin.net.