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Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Masterpiece Soars to New Heights

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by Mateo Biggs

     

     ​As school starts up once again and summer begins to fade to autumn, many students of Roanoke College are reminiscing about their breaks. From trips abroad to trips down the street, from weekends spent with friends to months spent with family, what everyone can agree on is that this summer has been the closest to normal that many Maroons have had.

     ​One such normal is the ability to enjoy movies over the summer – but a new normal is the ability to have the power of Broadway right at your fingertips. Last summer, the nationally acclaimed “Hamilton” was released on Disney+ and seized everyone’s attention. This year, Lin-Manuel Miranda spoiled his viewers once again by allowing them to watch the beautiful film adaptation of his Broadway musical “In the Heights.”

     ​Whereas “Hamilton” was recorded as a stage production on Broadway, “In the Heights” skillfully transformed its story from the stage into an entirely new medium. The film changed the standard for musical viewing, with cinematography that was its own work of art. It retained everything wonderful about the original musical, while showing further layers of beauty in a way that the restraints of a Broadway stage cannot.

     ​Camera angles revealed deeper tensions and soft lighting made tender moments in the storyline even more intimate. The film wonderfully portrayed gentle scenes like Usnavi (Anthony Ramos) and Vanessa (Melissa Barrera) navigating the complexity of their feelings while also giving audiences soaring, fantastical numbers like Benny (Corey Hawkins) and Nina (Leslie Grace) dancing amongst the skyline and along the walls of the apartment buildings. 

     The film version of “In the Heights” even manages to make the most heartbreaking moments of the musical hurt more – from Sonny’s (Gregory Diaz IV) pain of realizing he is stuck without his papers to mark him as a citizen, to Benny revealing Mr. Rosario’s (Jimmy Smits) plans to sell his remaining business to pay for Nina’s college, all the way to the final song of Abuela Claudia’s (Olga Merediz) life as she passes on amongst the fireworks that dance along the barrio to light up the night.

     ​Lin Manuel has outdone himself, along with the mastermind behind the cinematography, Alice Brooks, who was almost unknown until this summer. As many can attest to from watching the film, “In the Heights” is a beautiful piece of art that is both visually appealing and emotionally moving and full of musical numbers that leave you wanting to dance long after the credits have rolled.