Ahead of In the Heights debuting on HBO Max and in theaters, the first 8 minutes have arrived online. In the Heights is a highly-anticipated film adaptation of the hit musical created by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Last night, the opening 8 minute musical number was live-streamed on YouTube. Director Jon M. Chu announced it on Twitter along with providing fun facts about the production along the way. Chu shared his excitement for his many Twitter followers.
"I'll never forget being in a theater as a kid & seeing a sneak peek of the opening of The Lion King," Chu Tweeted. "It wasn't a trailer just The opening and I ALWAYS dreamed of doing that for an audience one day. So do u want to see the opening of #InTheHeightsMovie? tonight? How about 9pm PT?"
This is Jon Chu's first feature-length musical, however, he has directed dance movies like Step Up 2: The Streets, and concert films like Justin Bieber: Never Say Never. Chu may be best known for directing Crazy Rich Asians, a box-office smash and hit romantic comedy. Chu is also attached to direct the film adaptation of Wicked, but the release date is still up in the air.
While most people associate Miranda with Hamilton, In the Heights put him on the map and garnered massive amounts of acclaim. The 2008 musical even won four Tony awards, including Best Musical. Miranda doesn't have a lead role in the film, however, he does have a small role as Piraguero along with a producing credit. Miranda's presence is still felt in the hip-hop music style seen here that Hamilton fans know so well, and should make this musical a huge hit on HBO Max.
The opening number, "In the Heights," introduces us to Usnavi De La Vega, played by Anthony Ramos. Ramos is also a member of the original cast of Hamilton, so he already has the rapping skills needed for this role. In this number, Ramos raps directly at the camera as he introduces us to himself, his job, and Washington Heights itself.
Washington Heights is a largely Dominican neighborhood in New York City, but also has a myriad of diverse cultures that make it such a vibrant community. In the number, Usnavi introduces us to the many characters we are going to follow in this musical including Benny (Corey Hawkins), Nina Rosario (Leslie Grace), Vanessa (Melissa Barrera), Olga Merediz ( "Abuela" Claudia), and Kevin Rosario (Jimmy Smits).
The opening number tells us what they do and their struggles. Usnavi is the operator of a bodega and the main premise of the musical focuses on him trying to save as much money as possible in order to live a better life. Other characters have their on storylines, like Kevin who's trying to provide tuition money for his daughter's college education.
The musical itself deals with other real-life issues, such as gentrification as the price of living in Washington Heights continues to climb. The many characters that live in this community make it feel alive as if Washington Heights is a character itself.
Fans of Miranda's work or just musicals in general can expect to have a blast when this premieres in theaters and on HBO Max on June 10. The film is already receiving rave reviews with a current score of 96% on Rotten Tomatoes from critics so the rest of the film should be just as excellent as its opening number.