In The Heights: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s latest film highlights the struggles and joys of the Latino community
“In the Heights, it gets more expensive every day.”
That’s the message from the fictional residents of the real community of Washington Heights in New York – the focus of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s latest release.
Already synonymous with the record-breaking Hamilton (which is about to hit Broadway and West End stages again), Miranda’s first musical, the Tony-winning In The Heights, highlights the struggles – and joys – of living in this mostly Latino community in the Big Apple.
It first ran on Broadway in 2008 – but now 13 years on, the unique issues that community faces remain the same – a reflection on society in the real world.
In just two hours and 20 minutes, we hear about undocumented immigrants, ICE (Immigration Compliance and Enforcement) raids, racism, gentrification and poverty in this diverse neighbourhood – as well as the joy and excitement of a community that is talked about so little in mainstream cinema.
And it wouldn’t be a Lin-Manuel Miranda musical without his rap numbers, comic relief, big dance breaks and catchy pop tunes.
“It’s never a bad time to remind people of our humanity,” Miranda, who grew up in the real Washington Heights, told Sky News, when asked why now was a good time to bring this musical to the big screen.
He added: “It’s always going to be relevant.
“There’s such a meagre representation of Latinos in a positive light in mainstream media that it’s always going to feel like now is the perfect time because it’s always overdue.
“We filmed this in the summer of 2019 and the poignancy and power of seeing people in community together, like singing and hugging each other and kissing, dancing in the streets is the power of what we can do together, I think really radiates off the screen, and as the kids say, ‘it hits different’ now than it may have at an earlier time.”
Subscribe to the Backstage podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker
Miranda is one of the most in-demand people in showbiz – hot off the heels of his record and ground-breaking musical Hamilton, he has penned songs, acted in movies and voice characters for a number of projects.
And it doesn’t stop there – he is making his directorial debut soon with Netflix’s Tick, Tick… Boom and he’s on board for the live-action remake for The Little Mermaid.
In The Heights, which has a cast entirely made up of Latino performers and was co-written with Quiara Alegría Hudes, is centred around Usnavi (named after the time his father spotted a US Navy ship sailing by their home country of the Dominican Republic), who dreams of ditching his bodega (or corner shop to us Britons) and flying back to the Caribbean.
He’s played by Anthony Ramos, who UK fans might know, again, from Hamilton, where he played John Laurens and Philip Hamilton.
“Usnavi is a guy that… cares about his community,” he told Sky News.
“He takes care of his cousin, he takes care of, she’s not really his grandmother, but the matriarch of the block, if you will, and of the community.
“Both his parents passed away, he inherited a business that he didn’t ask for, but he does it with as much grace as possible.”
He adds that the character is relatable to everyone, saying: “Who hasn’t gone through that? Where you have days with some good, some not so good. It’s just it’s just a story about community and people in love, and family and music and culture.”
Ramos describes his character as the “invisible thread” that runs through the film as we meet the residents of Washington Heights trying to get through their lives – whether it’s the gossip girls from the salon, his cousin Sonny dealing with his immigration status or Abuela Claudia, who just wants to look after the block.
Sonny, Usnavi’s cousin and assistant in his bodega, is an undocumented citizen – a story that has grown in prominence over the last decade or so in the US due to fierce debates around border crossings – with an estimated 10 million people living in the country without the paperwork.
However, Gregory Diaz III, who plays Sonny, told Sky News that despite the problems sprouting from his character’s immigration status, he wanted to portray the good in his life.
He said: “Not wanting (his immigration status) to be something that defines him or something that holds him down – it’s something that both Sonny and I together want to elevate and really push forward those positive messages.”
And he gets his chance on screen, delivering a powerful rap during musical number 96,000, saying that if he won the lottery, he’d invest in education and technology, adding: “Politicians be hatin’, racism in this nation’s gone from latent to blatant, I’ll cash my ticket and picket, invest in protest, never lose my focus ’til the city takes notice.”
Elsewhere in the film, characters Vanessa and Nina also reflect on their experiences of living in Washington Heights – with both having to deal with racism at some point in the film.
Nina is the first of her family, and everyone she knows, to go to university (at Stanford none the less) with her family sacrificing the business to help her – but she drops out amid fears she is racially profiled by those around her, sharing a story about how she was wrongfully accused of stealing from her roommate on her first day.
Her father, Kevin, who is played by West Wing and Star Wars actor Jimmy Smits, secretly sells his cab company to a wealthy developer (who is slowly taking over the whole block, pricing out the local community) to get her back in – but it is Sonny’s story that gives her the drive to go back to California.
Vanessa dreams of being a fashion designer and has saved a deposit (in cash) for an apartment in Downtown Manhattan where she can work from – however when she goes to hand over the money, she’s told her credit isn’t good enough, despite having cash and rent upfront, before a seemingly middle-class white couple is welcomed into the property instead.
Melissa Barrera, a Mexican music and TV star, who plays Vanessa, told Sky News: “I think it’s a reflection of how a lot of things have not changed in a really long time and how certain communities continue to feel ostracised, especially in countries where they’re minorities.
“I think it’s about time to see their stories told in a positive light and to honour and acknowledge the contributions that communities like these have.”
Leslie Grace, who plays Nina, added: “I think it does reflect that on lots of things we still have a lot of work to do… but it also is aspirational in the sense that we can do it.”
Completing the ensemble we have:
• The salon girls, who share gossip about the Heights in their beauty parlour (Brooklyn 99 fans will spot Stephanie Beatriz ditching the no-nonsense, gruff-voiced attitude of cop Rosa, for the excitable and bouncy hairdresser Carla).
• Benny, played by Walking Dead actor Corey Hawkins, the film’s only black character who works for Nina’s dad and is Usnavi’s best friend, dreams of going to business school. He is worried about the Heights becoming too expensive for the long-standing community there.
• Abuela Claudia, the community matriarch played by Olga Merediz, who performs an emotional number on how her family came from Cuba, lived in relative poverty and didn’t stop working until her parents passed away.
Merediz, who also originated the role of Abuela Claudia on Broadway in 2008, told Sky News: “I want everybody to see us and to see that we are just like everyone else.
“We have dreams like everyone else. We are focused on family, and that we have our nannies or our grandmothers, the rocks of the of the family, the community, that we are hardworking, that we’re joyous, that we’re passionate.“
The person bringing this unique film together is director Jon M Chu, who is perhaps best known as the man behind Crazy Rich Asians.
He told Sky News that the movie shows how people deal with the issues presented to them, saying that “the world is changing and we cannot fight it”.
Chu added: “I’m not from Washington Heights and I’m not Latino, and yet it spoke to me so personally about what it feels like to be raised by your family – not by just your parents or by your aunts and your uncles – by your grandparents and the expectations they put on you and how that can be hard to deal with and finding your own path.”
But amid the political and emotional messaging, and the struggles in the community – the film is bursting full of singing, rapping and dancing.
At its heart, it is a movie musical with big ensemble numbers (96,000, shot at a swimming pool, is already a fan favourite, as is the colourful block-carnival scene), exciting dance breaks and impressive visuals – something which is sure to make it one of the summer’s biggest films.
Miranda sums it up, telling Sky News: “There’s a really specific kind of weightless goose-bumps feeling that only musicals give me. I remember feeling it for the first time in the movies when I saw the Under The Sea number in The Little Mermaid… just feeling like, ‘oh my God, this is a musical number under water!’
“I’ll never forget the feeling of being a little lighter than air walking out of that theatre – I hope people leave our movie with that same feeling.”
In The Heights is out in cinemas across the UK on 18 June, and tickets for Hamilton in the West End are on sale now.
Phillip Schofield dropped as ambassador for The Prince’s Trust charity
Phillip Schofield has been dropped as an ambassador for The Prince’s Trust after his admission of an affair with a younger male colleague.
The charity, founded by the King, said it was “no longer appropriate” for it to work with the presenter.
Schofield left ITV’s This Morning last week after two decades as host.
A spokesperson for The Prince’s Trust said: “In light of Phillip’s recent admissions, we have agreed with him that it is no longer appropriate to work together.”
The announcement comes after Schofield admitted to having an “unwise, but not illegal” affair with a younger male colleague on the show.
His admission saw him quit all his duties for ITV and be dropped by his talent agency, YMU.
It comes as ITV bosses will soon be quizzed by MPs over their handling of the situation at This Morning.
The network’s executives are due to appear before the Commons Culture, Media and Sports Committee next Tuesday.
They had been scheduled to appear before the committee anyway, to discuss the draft Media Bill.
However, it is understood the committee has informed them they will also face questions over public concern regarding the revelations the axed presenter had an affair with a much younger male colleague.
Schofield quit This Morning on 20 May after more than 20 years.
The 61-year-old originally said he was stepping down from the show because he had “become the story”, following reports of a feud between him and co-host Holly Willoughby.
It came after his brother was recently jailed for 12 years over child sex offences.
Willoughby, 41, is due to return next Monday (5 June), having gone on an early half-term holiday on 22 May.
Since his departure several people who have been involved in the show have criticised the way it was run.
A timeline of the This Morning controversy
ITV responds to rumours around show’s future
Why Schofield’s admission could kill off his career
Eamonn Holmes, who has regularly presented This Morning over the years, claimed that there was a “total cover-up” in relation to Schofield’s affair with a younger man while he was still married.
The veteran TV presenter told GB News: “Those in authority had to know what was going on and they thought they would dodge a bullet with this which they do and they do constantly.”
Separately This Morning’s ex-resident doctor Ranj Singh branded the show’s culture “toxic” claiming he raised concerns about “bullying and discrimination”.
ITV said that there had been an investigation “rumours of a relationship between Phillip Schofield and an employee” in early 2020, but said it didn’t find any evidence.
A statement from the broadcaster released on 27 May said: “Both parties were questioned and both categorically and repeatedly denied the rumours as did Phillip’s then agency YMU.
“In addition, ITV spoke to a number of people who worked on This Morning and were not provided with, and did not find, any evidence of a relationship beyond hearsay and rumour… He lied to people at ITV, from senior management to fellow presenters, to YMU, to the media and to others over this relationship.”
Who are The ChurnUps? Glastonbury announces mystery act for prime Pyramid Stage slot – as full-line up revealed
Glastonbury has revealed the full line-up for this year’s festival – with a mysterious act set to play a prime-time slot on the main Pyramid Stage.
Names including Rick Astley, Queens Of The Stone Age, Skepta and Sophie Ellis-Bextor have all been added to the bill, alongside previously announced headliners Elton John, Arctic Monkeys and Guns N’ Roses, and stars including Lizzo, Lana Del Rey and Blondie.
But it’s an unknown act that has got everyone talking following the announcement from Glastonbury organisers – The ChurnUps will play on the Pyramid Stage in the sunset slot on Friday evening, third on the line-up behind Royal Blood and Arctic Monkeys.
While Glastonbury is no stranger to hosting secret acts that turn out to be headline-worthy names – Pulp, Radiohead, The Killers, Biffy Clyro and The Libertines have previously “surprised” fans – most of the performances have taken place on smaller stages.
They don’t always give clues, either – or not this early at least – so the announcement has led to much searching and speculation from fans trying to find out who The ChurnUps – an act with no apparent online footprint – could actually be.
And The ChurnUps are not the only surprise, with two TBA slots also announced for the Woodsies Stage (formerly John Peel).
Fans on social media have turned to the definition of “churn up” for answers – with many coming to the conclusion that Pulp could be back for another secret set.
“When something is churned it becomes Pulp,” one Twitter user wrote.
The band, famous for hits including Common People, Disco 2000 and Do You Remember The First Time? in the 1990s, headlined Glastonbury in 2005, debuting the single Sorted for Es & Wizz on stage at the festival. In 2011, they drew what was then the biggest crowd ever to the Park Stage when they performed a surprise set.
In 2022, they announced a reunion, playing shows across the UK this summer.
However, Pulp drummer Nick Banks has denied they will be making an appearance at Glastonbury, writing on Twitter: “Though it’s very tempting to tease you lot again. I know nothing of the ‘Churnups’ band. Ok?”
The Foo Fighters and Blur are other acts being speculated about.
This year’s Glastonbury festival in Somerset runs from 21 to 25 June.
Succession review: The end is revealed at last… but of course, as always there’s a twist – contains spoilers
This review contains spoilers for the final episode of Succession, which is already available to stream on Now TV.
We’ll warn you again – stop now if you don’t want to know what happens.
Final warning. After the picture below all will be revealed.
You have been warned. Again.
We finally have a successor to founder and CEO of Waystar Royco, Logan Roy (Brian Cox)… but it’s none of his children.
In the end it was Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen) who came out on top – the desperate outsider and social climber, described as an “empty suit” by his wife, Shiv Roy (Sarah Snook).
But it was Shiv’s lack of faith in her elder brother, Kendall (Jeremy Strong), that led to Tom’s crowning as CEO – and the finale rightly focused on the siblings’ complicated relationship after four seasons of exhausting backstabbing.
There’s no big fanfare in the last episode, With Open Eyes, with most of the plot taking place in the Roy children’s mother’s house, their father’s flat, then finally, the boardroom.
It’s unnerving to watch the siblings getting along during most of the episode; united in wanting to defeat the billionaire GoJo CEO Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgard) from buying Waystar Royco, the company their father built.
Humiliated Shiv has been betrayed by Matsson, who had promised her US CEO but has been interviewing other candidates – including her husband Tom unbeknown to her.
And a feeble Roman (Kieran Culkin) is sporting stitches and being looked after by his mother, seemingly on the verge of a mental breakdown.
They’ve decided between themselves, after four series of fighting it out, that Kendall should be CEO. And at the end of a season where he’s shown himself to step in with a calm head, culminating in his spectacular speech at his father’s funeral, viewers are almost convinced, too.
But it almost feels too good to be true, and when it comes down to the board vote – between Kendall or a GoJo takeover – Shiv changes her mind at the last minute.
“I love you but I cannot stomach you,” she tells her brother.
“I’m the eldest boy”, he yells back. And just like that, we’re reminded that he never really has been good enough to fill Logan’s shoes.
Succession star lands Bond villain role
Kendall Roy’s Succession penthouse up for sale for $29m
Meanwhile, Tom has listened to Matsson backstabbing Shiv – who is pregnant with their first child – describing how he doesn’t want her as CEO because he feels that they “clickety click”.
“What if I hired the guy who put the baby inside her,” he asks Tom, “instead of the baby lady?”
And Tom, never one to miss a climb up the ladder, doesn’t hesitate to tell him: “I’m your man.”
It was never going to be one of the children.
They acknowledged it themselves – they were all promised the top job by their father at different points. Kendall even references his father promising it to him when he was seven years old at an ice cream parlour.
But Shiv points out what we knew all along: “I don’t think he wanted to give it to any of us.”
We’re left without knowing their fates.
Roman looks almost relieved to be rid of the burden. Shiv appears despondent to be settling as second fiddle to her now more powerful husband.
And Kendall, the almost-King, is left with only his father’s loyal bodyguard for company, seemingly without the will to even contemplate his next move.
In the end, they all lost – even Tom looks discouraged at being tied to maverick Matsson as his “pain sponge” rather than “partner”.
And somehow you’re left feeling slightly heartbroken for these characters who have few to no redeeming features – so perhaps it’s the most satisfying end it could ever have been.
Sports7 months ago
‘Storybook stuff’: Inside the night Bryce Harper sent the Phillies to the World Series
Technology2 years ago
Game consoles were once banned in China. Now Chinese developers want a slice of the $49 billion pie
Sports2 years ago
Team Europe easily wins 4th straight Laver Cup
Politics2 years ago
Have the last few wobbly weeks seen a turning point for Johnson as PM?
Business8 months ago
Bank of England’s extraordinary response to government policy is almost unthinkable | Ed Conway
Politics2 years ago
Yvette Cooper promoted and Lisa Nandy to shadow Gove on levelling up brief in Labour reshuffle
Business8 months ago
Liz Truss’s ‘favourite’ economist says chancellor ‘took his eye off ball’ and ‘overstepped the mark’ with mini-budget
Videos8 months ago
World leaders come together for Queen Elizabeth’s funeral