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In the Heights: 15 differences between the stage show and movie

The film is out now

In the club at In the Heights
© Macall Polay

Guess what! In the Heights has finally hit the big screen – in a slightly different iteration to the stage production which has wowed audiences across the globe over the last decade. We run down some of the biggest changes to the show, now that it is on the silver screen. Of course – there are hundreds of others – but we went for the biggies!

Warning – there are a few lil' spoilers in here!




1. Goodbye Camila

One of the big changes is the removal of Camila, Nina's mother and Kevin's wife. A fan favourite (with a powerhouse number in the form of "Enough" also going), her absence definitely changes up the plot.


2. Trump written out

This is a tiny change but one that definitely stuck out – a small reference to the 45th President was removed from the song "96,000" – this is a Trump-free movie!


The cast of In the Heights
© Macall Polay


3. Sonny's life

It's lucky that Gregory Diaz IV is such a fantastic performer, because the character of Sonny gets a big upgrade in the movie. As an undocumented immigrant, his dreams are put in jeopardy. Unless he relies on some help from his friends....


4. No more mural

The emotional climax of the original stage show sees Graffiti Pete create a powerful mural of Claudia – a tribute to the Heights' matriach. In the film, Pete comes up with a different mural – showing Usnavi's home in the Dominican Republic. It hits the feels in a new way, and is sure to give theatre-familiar fans a surprise.


5. Chopped songs

We mentioned "Enough" already, but a few other numbers are sadly gonners in the movie – "Sunrise," "Hundreds of Stories," "Atención," and "Everything I Know." What's more – "Hundreds of Stories" was re-worked into dialogue (given the plot's reshuffle, there's no real place for it anymore).


6. Vanessa the visionary

One of the fantastic decisions in the film was to flesh out Vanessa's backstory – in the show, aside from being Usnavi's love interest and wanting to get a new pad, we don't know all that much about her. Here, her fashion ambitions are shown in all their vibrant technicolor glory, and she is seen to be much more independent – not living with her mother, for starters.


7. Dialogue do-over

Buzzfeed counted – apparently fewer than ten lines from the original book made it into the film – so writer Quiara Alegría Hudes was by no means phoning it in.


8. Piragua (Reprise) has been moved

Normally coming just before "Champagne", Miranda's second number is now a nostalgia-laden post-credit scene – so stick around after the credits!


9. Daniela and Carla

Are a couple here! We love to see it.


On set in the salon
(© 2019 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved, photo by Macall Polay))


10. Kevin and Benny

One relationship not really given as much of a focus is that of Kevin and Benny (Benny in general isn't given as much to do, sadly). In the stage show, Benny goes to great pains to try and impress his boss, learning Spanish with Nina's help. All of that is given the chop – Kevin and Benny actually double up to try and help cabs during the black-out.


11. No more "Inútil"

"Inútil" is replaced by a smaller, less grave monologue here – a lot of Kevin's backstory is told through dialogue or cutaway images and flashbacks. Films can be very economic when it comes to communicating information!


12. "Paciencia y Fe"

Whereas in the stage show this number is all about Claudia winning her lottery ticket, in the film it becomes an incredible ensemble piece as the beloved character crosses into the afterlife. The shuffle works to wonderful effect.


Lin-Manuel Miranda and Christopher Jackson in In the Heights
© Macall Polay


13. Small time jump

The movie adds a bumper time jump compared to the musical (which only takes place over a few days). This is why there has to be a bit of dialogue before "When the Sun Goes Down" where Nina and Benny have to imagine it's still the start of summer rather than the end (because otherwise the song makes less sense!)


14. Nina goes back to Stanford for slightly different reasons

With the changes to Sonny's story, there's a whole new aspect to Nina's aspects to resume her neglected studies. In the musical, Nina resolves to go back to college to honour the memory of Abuella Claudia. In the film this is mentioned, but Nina also wants to help all the dreamers – those who may have their futures jeopardised by issues such as racial prejudice or immigrant status.


15. Lottery ticket change-up

In the stage show, Claudia discovers she won the lottery ticket early in the show (just after 96,000 ends). In the film, only as the piece reaches its climax, does Usnavi discover the ticket, safely tucked away and ready for him to cash in before he travels to the Dominican Republic (imagine if he'd not spotted it!).

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