This weekend premieres what I think is going to be this summers biggest movie, In The Heights. While we all know just how different the quality of a trailer can be versus the quality of a film, there are a lot of reasons that I’m going out on a limb and predicting that this movie is going to be good. Let’s take a look.
First and foremost, I want to say that musicals, though they are often ridiculed or overlooked, are always huge hits. Whether they are classic Broadway style like In the Heights or The Greatest Showman, or movies about singing like A Star is Born, whenever a good musical comes out, the songs stick with us. The very first feature length fully sound integrated film was The Jazz Singer (1927), which was a musical. The musical is the penultimate modern form of storytelling, mixing audio visual language in it’s purest form. Yes, I majored in Musical Theatre in college.
The scent of a cafecito caliente hangs in the air just outside of the 181st Street subway stop. The likeable, magnetic bodega owner Usnavi saves every penny from his daily grind as he hopes, imagines and sings about a better life.
Usnavi de la Vega > Anthony Ramos > John Laurens/Phillip Hamilton (Hamilton)
Carla > Stephanie Beatriz > Rosa Diaz (Brooklyn Nine Nine)
Piragua Guy > Lin-Manuel Miranda > Writer / Alexander Hamilton (Hamilton) / Jack (Mary Poppins Returns)
Kevin Rosario > Jimmy Smits > Senator Bail Organa (Star Wars)
Benny > Corey Hawkins > Dr Dre (Straight Outta Compton) / Houston Brooks (Kong: Skull Island)
??? > Chris Jackson > George Washington (Hamilton)
Lin-Manuel Mirandas History
So a decent cast, and a vibrant and charismatic trailer, but that’s not the only thing I’m hanging my hat on. To really understand where I’m coming from, you need to look at Lin-Manuel Miranda’s career up to this point.
Lin-Manuel started his career with the Broadway production of In the Heights, which he started working on in 2002. The show went up in 2004 Off-Broadway, and in 2008 became a Broadway production. It was nominated for 13 Tony’s, winning 4 including Best Musical and Best Original Score, as well as the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album. Miranda’s performance in the leading role of Usnavi earned him a nomination for the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical.
While on vacation in 2008, he read Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton and, inspired by the book, wrote a rap about Hamilton that he performed for the White House Evening of Poetry, Music, and the Spoken Word.
In 2015, Hamilton premiered off-Broadway, and later that year was promoted to a Broadway show. Hamilton won the Tony Award for Best Musical, Miranda won the Tony Awards for Best Original Score and Best Book of a Musical and received a nomination for Best Actor in a Musical. Miranda won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the musical, and the Hamilton cast album won the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album. In 2016, Miranda returned to the White House for an encore performance.
Since then, he wrote the music for Moana, the Maz Kanata cantina scene from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, he was Jack from Mary Poppins Returns, and more. When Hamilton was released on Disney+, it became very popular, as the tickets to live performances to Hamilton were sold out, not only on Broadway, but around the country via traveling companies. Now, people that never had a chance to see the show were able to watch it up close and in detail, in a way that few live performances get to be enjoyed by the general public.
Overall Lin-Manuel Miranda has won a Pulitzer, three Tonys, three Grammys, two Oliviers, and nominated for an Oscar. He’s on a roll, and it doesn’t look like he’s slowing down any time soon.