Why the movie “In The Heights” changed the ending of the Broadway show
It has been over 10 years since In the heights premiered on Broadway, bringing a new kind of musical to The Great White Way–a rap-filled story from a modern day Latinx community, with characters that looked like people youwould pass on any block in New York. But the show was revolutionary in more ways than one; he introduced the world of theater to Lin-Manuel Miranda, the showthe creator of, who will experience even more success with his musical juggernaut Hamilton.
Today, after years of waiting, the film adaptation of In the heights has arrived on the big screen, both in theaters and streaming on HBO Max. Miranda, who originally starred in the Broadway show, takes a step back in the film version to let a new cast shine. (Don’t worry, his cameo is perfect.) Anthony Ramos, who was part of the original Broadway production of Hamilton, leads the film as Usnavi, a winery owner dreaming of a life in his home country, the Dominican Republic. Meanwhile, he falls for Vanessa (Melissa Barrera), an aspiring fashion designer; caring for Sonny (Gregory Diaz IV), his precocious cousin; and caring for Abuela Claudia, a neighbor turned grandmother figure, played by Olga Merediz (who also created the role on Broadway). Everyone in the neighborhood has theirs sueñito, or little dream, which Nina (Leslie Grace), a star student who left the neighborhood for college on the West Coast and begins to fall in love with Benny (Corey Hawkins), a hardworking dispatcher for the car service run by his father (Jimmy Smits).
The film carries all the sparkle and pride of the original musical, but has enough plot changes to keep it fresh for any longtime fans of the show. Below, check out all of the major differences between the movie and the musical, but be aware: There are approximately 96,000 spoilers to come.
In the musical version of In the heights, Nina’s father (originally played by Mandy Gonzalez) and a mother, Kevin and Camila Rosario (originally played by Carlos Gomez and Priscilla Lopez), run a local taxi company. The two even have their own solo songs, “Inútil” and “Enough”, respectively. However, in the film version, Nina’s mother has passed away and although Kevin has an important role, he doesn’t have any of his own songs.
In both versions, Nina drops out of Stanford, but she does so for different reasons. In the musical, Nina admits that because she had to work two jobs while in school, her grades dropped and she lost her scholarship. In the film, Nina talks about the racism she experienced at school and the loneliness she felt being away from her community.
Nina’s relationship with Benny
In the movie, Nina and Benny dated before Nina went to college, but broke up when she left New York City to go to Stanford. Their story is quite simple: they reconnect, fall in love, spend the summer together, and decide to try remote dating once Nina returns to school.
Yet, in the musical, their relationship is much more complicated. When the characters first reunite, it is clear that they have romantic feelings for each other, although it has never been suggested that they were a couple before. The two begin to fall in love, but when Kevin announces that he’s selling his cab company to pay for Nina’s college, Benny (originally played by Christopher Jackson) is devastated. Later that night at the club, Nina and Benny get into a fight (more details below), but end up reconciling and spending the night together. Benny worries about whether Kevin will approve of their relationship, but at the end of the show Benny and Nina decide to go out with a long distance once she returns to Stanford.
Usnavi’s intelligent cousin Sonny is a treasured character in both the movie and the musical. He works at Usnavi Bodega and always talks about how to make the neighborhood and the world tangible, a better place. In the musical, Sonny (originally played by Robin de Jesús) doesn’t have much of his own history beyond being Usnavi’s sidekick. But in the film, Sonny grapples with his status as an undocumented immigrant and what it means for his future in America.
In an interview with CinemaBlend, Miranda explained why the producers decided to include a script about DREAMers and Undocumented Immigrants, saying, “To have one of the most beloved characters on the show struggling with that status. , that just makes it real to people in a way that a headline doesn’t.
The revelation of Sonny’s immigration status displaces the rest of the film, which in turn moves further away from the musical: Usnavi decides to use his lottery winnings to help Sonny get a green card, and Nina is inspired to go back to school to help other undocumented children.
The winning lottery ticket
In the film version of In the heights, we find out pretty quickly that someone in the neighborhood has won the lottery, winning $ 96,000. But no one ever comes out as the winner, and the ticket remains a mystery for most of the movie. It wasn’t until Abuela Claudia’s death, and much closer to the end of the film, that Usnavi discovers that she still had the winning lottery ticket and was keeping it to himself. Usnavi then decides to use the money to pay a lawyer to help Sonny get a green card.
In the musical, Usnavi discovers Claudia’s winning ticket shortly after the song “96,000”. Claudia decides that she will give Usnavi and Sonny a third of the money and encourages Usnavi to use the money to return to the Dominican Republic. Usnavi then announces to the whole neighborhood that Claudia has won the lottery in the song “Carnaval del Barrio”.
Song numbers “The Club” and “Blackout”
One of the biggest plot differences comes halfway between the movie and the musical, when Usnavi and Vanessa (originally played by Karen Olivo on Broadway) have a date at a local club. In both versions, Benny and Nina are also there, and Benny laments losing his job. But in the musical version, Benny gets angry with Nina and blames her for getting her fired, since Kevin sold the company to pay for her tuition. He sings to her: “Why don’t you run to daddy?” / He likes to remind me that I’ll never be good enough for your family, for you. Benny later hits a guy Nina is dancing with, and a fight breaks out in the club, just before the blackout. Benny then tries to find Nina in the dark and the two continue to fight before finally reconciling under the fireworks. Yet in the film, Benny and Nina don’t have an argument at all at the club; instead, Usnavi and Vanessa are the ones fighting on their way home in the blackout.
The night of the blackout also differs a bit in each version of the story: In the musical, Sonny worries that people are coming to rob the bodega, and he and Graffiti Pete set off fireworks in part to distract the looters. But in the film, the blackout, although chaotic, is much less violent.
Usnavi’s future with Vanessa
Usnavi and Vanessa fans get an extra treat in this movie. At the end, the film moves back in time, where Usnavi and Vanessa are married and live in Washington Heights. We find out that Usnavi told the whole story to their daughter, a framing device unique to the film. In the musical, the show simply ends in real time, and Usnavi only decides to ask Vanessa for a second date.
As you may have understood, the In the heights the plot changes a lot from scene to scene, while keeping the essence and joy of the story intact. Some additional songs that were cut from the musical include “Sunrise,” sung by Nina and Benny after spending the night together; “Hundreds of Stories”, where Usnavi and Claudia sing about what they’re going to do with the lottery money; “Atención”, which Kevin sings to announce to the neighborhood that Claudia is deceased; and “Everything I Know,” which Nina sings as she remembers everything Claudia taught her as a child and what Claudia experienced as an immigrant leaving her home in Cuba. In the directing, it is after “All that I know” that Nina decides to return to Stanford.
In the film Claudia sings “Paciencia y Fe” moments before her death, while in the musical, the song comes right after “96,000” and is used to announce that she has won the lottery.
And finally, moviegoers will get an additional song that doesn’t appear in the Broadway musical. The all new track “Home All Summer”, written by Miranda and starring Marc Anthony (who also has an appearance in the film), plays during the credits.
Watch In the heights on HBO Max
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