‘In the Heights’: The Cuts, the Updates, the Ropa Vieja

For the creators of the Tony-winning Broadway musical “In the Heights,” the new, big-budget movie version wasn’t just a chance to go big with splashy song-and-dance numbers. It was also, according to playwright and screenwriter Quiara Alegría Hudes, a chance to pull in close and get intimate in ways they couldn’t on a Broadway stage.

Listen to this week’s “Stagecraft” podcast below:

“In the screenplay, [I wrote], ‘There is steam rising from abuela’s ropa vieja.’ I scripted the steam, okay?” Hudes said on the new episode of “Stagecraft,” Variety‘s theater podcast. “When [the film’s director] Jon M. Chu and I started talking about production, he’s like, ‘You know, Quiara, I can tell from your screenplay that you feel some type of way about food. So do you want to have a lot of control in this regard?’ Yes, please!”

Hudes discussed the importance of food to her own upbringing, and why it plays such an important role in the lives of her characters in “In the Heights,” as part of a wide-ranging discussion that touched on all the shifts, tweaks, cuts, changes and updates she and the musical’s co-creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, made to the stage original on its way to the screen. “We knew we were going to have to make cuts in order to focus the story,” she said. “We cut songs we love! We cut characters we love! These aren’t things we don’t like about the show.”

The writer also recalled all the ways that filming the movie, on location in upper Manhattan in the summer of 2019, reminded her of the block parties in her hometown of Philadelphia. “We basically roped off blocks as much as we could, and we invited neighbors to come join us [for the filming],” she remembered. “They would bring folding chairs, they would bring us coquito and frituras, little fried treats they had made that day. They would lean over and watch on my little iPad that I was watching the filming on, and we got to know them over time. There were some who would just come and look once and leave, there were some that were super annoyed we were in their way, and there were some that came every day and became our friends.”

Also on the new episode of “Stagecraft,” Hudes talked her new memoir, “My Broken Memoir”; her new animated collaboration with Miranda, “Vivo”; and the “cultural scheming” that led her to playwriting.

To hear the full conversation, listen at the link above or download and subscribe to “Stagecraft” on podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify and the Broadway Podcast Network. New episodes of “Stagecraft” are released every other week.

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