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Lin-Manuel Miranda became a worldwide sensation following his Tony, Grammy, and Pulitzer winning Broadway musical Hamilton. But his first Broadway hit was In the Heights, which was recently adapted for film by Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu. Said adaptation greatly altered the story, with a number of songs being cut in the process. And I had the chance to ask Chu and the In the Heights cast how they felt about those cuts.
Rather than taking place over one day like the stage musical, In the Heights spreads its story out, and the song list is altered in order to tell the new version of the story. Much of this re-working was done by screenwriter Quiara Alegría Hudes, who also penned the musical’s book. In the video above you can see how the cast reacted to these changes. Actress-singer Leslie Grace was one cast member I had the privilege of discussing this with, and I specifically asked about the Act II opening love song “Sunrise” which is normally sung by Nina and Benny. She said,
We all love ‘Sunrise.’ We were all upset about that song not being in this adaptation. There’s so many beautiful songs in this musical, and we knew that some weren’t going to make it in. Like Nina doesn’t have a mom in this version. Alot of those very hard decisions that Jon, Lin, and Quiara had to make in order to make our movie fit. They amplified and only heightened the stakes for every character.
There you have it. Trying to turn a two-act stage musical into a film is no easy feat. While it’s been done well with award-winning movies like Rob Marshall’s Chicago, songs inevitably have to be cut in order to make a film-length presentation. For Leslie Grace, that included some absolutely bangers like “Sunrise” and “Everything I Know.”
In the Heights is available for a limited time on HBO Max. You can use this link to sign up for the streaming service.
The In the Heights movie features a stellar group of vocalists, and moviegoers like myself were thrilled to see that actor Jimmy Smits was in the cast playing Kevin Rosario. And while the Star Wars icon sang in the movie’s opening number, Kevin’s two songs were also cut. Smits spoke about his perspective on this process, saying:
It’s a wonderful thing that you’re talking about in regards to the iteration and change from the Broadway musical which is two and a half hours to this film version that we have. That has become, with Quiara’s draft, Lin and Quiara’s work was expanded and became much more current in terms of the themes. The basic storyline is there with the neighborhood all those things. And then Jon’s visualization on a cinematic leve, and the odes you have in terms of old Hollywood. I was totally fine when I saw that script.
Well, there you have it. While some hardcore fans of In the Heights might have loved to see Jimmy Smits get the spotlight for Kevin’s big number “Inútil”, he was happy to play his role in the film adaptation. Indeed, the Rosarios were greatly changed. But that’s because this version of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical was telling a slightly different story. And we did get to see Smits bust a move during “Carnaval del Barrio.”