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In the Heights
Photo: Warner Bros.

Get hyped for 'In the Heights' with Lin-Manuel Miranda's biggest showstoppers

You know 'Hamilton,' but do you know 'Jabba Flow?'

Written by
Andy Kryza

This week, Lin-Manuel Miranda's Tony-winning breakout musical gets a film adaptation more than a decade in the making: In the Heights is finally making its debut in theaters and on HBO Max Friday, June 11

The Hamilton superstar pennedas a one-act play when he was a student at Wesleyan back in 1999, evolving it into an off-Broadway smash in 2008. Now, after years in development hell, Miranda's tale of a Dominican bodega owner in Manhattan is here. 

Miranda's seen his star rise meteorically since his debut, becoming a ubiquitous presence on stage, in film and even on shows such as Curb Your Enthusiasm and BoJack Horseman. He's even become a modern-day Alan Menken, penning songs for multiple Disney features, including the upcoming Little Mermaid remake.

To whet your appetite for In the Heights, we've assembled Miranda's best big-screen showstoppers, including some deep cuts.

"We Know the Way": Moana (2016)

Miranda may have broken out on stage with In the Heights and Hamilton, but he became a household name when Disney brought the rising star in to pen the music for Moana. Parents are no doubt still cursing Miranda for the ear worm that is "You're Welcome," while the David Bowie-tribute "Shiny" remains a fan favorite. But perhaps the film's most stirring number is partially sung by Miranda himself: "We Know the Way" is an ode to adventure and wanderlust sung in English by Miranda and the Polynesian Tokelauan language by Opetaia Foa'i, showing that the composer could adapt music from around the world in his own image to tell a universal story.

"Jabba Flow:" Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2016)

Star Wars' fores into pop music are note exactly celebrated, but few know that J.J. Abrams managed to sneak in a little modern music into The Force Awakens that wasn't a Beastie Boys reference. The director teamed up with Miranda to pen the music featured in the film's throwback Cantina scene, which Miranda describes as basically being an homage to Shaggy's "It Wasn't Me," except written in Huttese, the language spoken in Jabba. It's a curio at best, but it beats the hell out of "Jedi Rocks" from the Return of the Jedi special edition.

"Trip a Little Light Fantastic": Mary Poppins Returns (2018)

Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman are credited with the songs from the long-after sequel to Mary Poppins, but Miranda — who pulls Dick Van Dyke duty, cockney accent and all — undeniably influenced the film's biggest showstopper, "Trip a Little Light Fantastic." Alternating between melodic singing and his trademark rat-a-tat rapping, the number is the liveliest in a film full of big musical moments, with Miranda leading an army of lorries in elaborate choreography across the rooftops of London.

Hamilton (2020)

Since its debut in 2015, Hamilton has been the hottest ticket on Broadway and in any city the touring show descends upon, meaning that those of us without the funds or a good scalper connection couldn't see what all the fuss was about beyond the soundtrack. In 2020, Disney+ finally showed a pandemic-bound world the goods, with the original cast led by Miranda putting on an electric stage show that reminded us all of what we were missing as stages sat empty. Picking one song from the film version doesn't really do it justice (though "My Shot" is probably the most well known). The entire show is a pure shot of adrenaline and more than enough evidence to justify why everybody is chomping at the bit to work with Miranda.

"In the Heights": In the Heights (2021)

In advance of the John M. Chu-directed In the Heights, Warner Bros. dropped the first eight minutes of the film: the namesake musical performance, complete with an appearance by Miranda himself. Those who followed the artist's work will recognize some familiar beats — hip hop and salsa music combine as exposition and character introductions are fired off with staccato panache — but the energy is live-wire. Miranda's love-letter to New York's Latin diaspora and the joys and struggles of the everyday come alive in the clip. If the rest of the film can keep up — and reviews seem to indicate it does — the Miranda cinematic influence is showing no signs of stopping. 

See Time Out's review of In the Heights

Check out the 30 greatest movie musicals of all time (so far)

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