June 12th, 2021

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‘In the Heights’ is an award-winning hit. Its predecessor, ‘West Side Story,’ shocked audiences.

By
Marisa Iati

Excitement greeted “In the Heights,” Lin-Manuel Miranda’s dynamic paean to the Latin American communities of New York City’s Washington Heights, when it launched on Broadway in 2008. The New York Daily News proclaimed that “Latinos are back on Broadway.” The show garnered 13 Tony nominations and four wins.

When the movie version premiered this week, hundreds of people gathered outside the United Palace theater to try to glimpse the film’s young stars.

But “West Side Story,” a direct predecessor to “In the Heights” for its similar focus on Latinos in New York, was greeted much less warmly when it began its own Broadway run in 1957. Audiences and critics alike were discomfited by the violence and juvenile delinquency portrayed in that musical, an adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet” that trades rival families for warring street gangs — one Puerto Rican and another White. (A new movie version of “West Side Story” directed by Steven Spielberg is set to be released in December.)

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Jon M. Chu on Filming ‘In The Heights’ Next to ‘West Side Story': ‘Can You Move Your Catering Truck?’
Both musicals shot in the summer of 2019 in New York

Beatrice Verhoeven

When Jon M. Chu stepped outside to film “In the Heights” on the streets of Washington Heights, New York, he found another certain movie filming on the same streets: Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” happened to film at the same time, in the summer of 2019, and at the same place as “In the Heights.”

“We were right there in each other’s back some days,” Chu told TheWrap. “There was one day where their catering truck was literally in our shot and we had to go over there and be like, ‘Can you move your catering truck that way, guys, please?'”
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