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In the Heights

‘In the Heights’ is based on the 2008 hit musical Broadway stage show. It’s no surprise that’s caught Hollywood’s attention given the popularity of other stage to screen musicals. ‘Jersey Boys’, ‘Dreamgirls’, ‘Into the Woods’ are several that have weaved their melodic magic on cinema screens. The trick for similar works is to make them stand out from the pack. ‘In the Heights’ bursts on screen with vibrant colour and entertainment value befitting a theatrical spectacular.

Living in a tight-knit Dominican community in Washington Heights New York, Usnavi (Anthony Ramos) dreams of big things. Owner of a grocery store which he runs with his cousin Sonny (Gregory Diaz). Usnavi’s friend Benny (Corey Hawkins) is one of the few in the area who doesn’t speak Spanish. This puts him at odds with his girlfriend Nina’s (Leslie Grace) father Kevin (Jimmy Smits). While dealing with personal dilemmas, Usnavi and his friends chase their goals and hope to break free of what they think is a humdrum existence.

The most important aspect is that ‘In the Heights’ succeeds at not feeling stagey. That’s ruined several movie musicals, with its limited locations making for dull viewing. Whilst primarily set within a section of New York, the streets and surrounds are effectively used. This adds visual interest even when the story drags. Pacing is the main issue making ‘In the Heights’ less dynamic than others with its excessive two and a half hour run-time. It generally makes up for it with dazzling musical numbers effectively conveying the character’s emotional dilemmas.

Musicals like ‘In the Heights’ aren’t necessarily noted for acting. It’s mainly how the performers sing and move that’s important. ‘In the Heights’ is graced with a solid ensemble making the script’s world come to vivid life. The central theme of chasing dreams and the consequences of doing so are well explored. Like any good musical, ‘In the Heights’ has something to talk about amidst its spectacle, enabling it more depth.

In spite of the glacial pace in telling its tale, ‘In the Heights’ is a satisfactory watch. It’s refreshing seeing a newish musical give things a go against endless Andrew Lloyd Webber theatrical juggernauts. That factor alone is a bonus with realistic honesty deftly interwoven between its musical escapades.

Rating out of 10: 6

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