Some trailers premiere to much fanfare at Comic Con. Others just show up on the internet. But for the team behind Jon M. Chu’s highly anticipated adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes’ musical In the Heights, it was important to start the party in the neighborhood that inspired them. At 809 Restaurant on Washington Height’s Dyckman Street, the second floor had been converted into an immersive party, complete with a pop-up bodega, a piragua vendor, a bar stocked with coquito and sangria, waiters who carried around plates of sancocho, ceviche and empanadas, speakers blasting reggaetón from the 2000s — perhaps a nod to the time when the original Broadway production took the stage — and flowers supplied by one of the cast member’s relatives.
Many of the cast members on hand for the event said it was a family affair. Chu said for him, the sentiment was quite literal, as his second child was born during the production. Miranda noted that he started writing the musical “six blocks away, where my parents live.” After a brief introduction by Miranda and Chu, the long-awaited trailer played, building on a number of the scenes briefly shown in the teaser, including lots more time with Anthony Ramos’ turn as Usnavi, the role Miranda originated on Broadway. Don’t worry, Miranda’s in the movie as a piragua vendor.
The trailer feels like brief musical introductions to members of the cast. We may only get glimpses of some of them and a few bars of a song from a few others, but it does what trailers are supposed to do: get you excited to see the movie. Judging by the trailer, the movie looks like it will be a burst of song and dance, color and emotions. There are scenes of Usnavi telling children at the beach about a block — his Washington Heights block — that was under threat of disappearing, there’s a scene of Usnavi and his friends at the bodega where he works and in comes Kevin, or as we recognize him, Jimmy Smits. There are also moments featuring Abuela Claudia (Olga Merediz, who originated the role on Broadway), Nina (Leslie Grace), Benny (Corey Hawkins), Vanessa (Melissa Barrera) and the salon ladies played by Daphne Rubin-Vega, Stephanie Beatriz and Dascha Polanco. Interspersed through these scenes are imagery of kids playing underwater spraying out of fire hydrants, long nails clicking on a hard surface, people sitting on window sills to find a cool breeze in the heat of summer, women haphazardly crossing the street in high heels and a party where multiple flags of our different countries are unfurled and celebrated. And then there’s the dancing — not enough yet to see entire routines, but enough to know there’s a lot more in store for the full movie.
The overall impression the trailer left on the audience ranged from enthusiastic cheers to a few tears. For Merediz, who was returning to a role she left over a decade ago, she said the experience of making the movie was “Like revisiting an old friend.” She even found her notes on the character from the 2008 Broadway production. There will also be many more additions to the movie as Hudes told the audience, “I wanted it to feel like a movie.” That means they used many of the actual locations in and around the Heights and added a new scene at the beach, which Hudes said couldn’t be done on stage as she originally wanted.
In the Heights opens in theaters June 18, 2021.