Once upon a time, musicals only provided entertainment and an escape from reality. But today, they can also enlighten us!

BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: At first glance, the film opening of "In The Heights" is all about the excitement of song and dance in the grand tradition of musicals, something that Red absolutely loves, whether live theater or a movie; but Black sees musicals not only as business ventures but as a reflection of the times.


The movie premiere of the multiple Tony-award-winning Broadway musical "In The Heights" was delayed by COVID-19 (it seems "everything" was delayed) and now is premiering in movie theatres and also streaming on HBO-Max. Red can't wait to see it on the big screen as she's desperate to go back to the movies, and since she loves musicals, it's a definite win-win. (And that doesn't include the popcorn!)

Black, on the other hand, has a different interest in the movie,

I know you do not want to hear about the business logic behind jointly releasing and streaming movies, so I will focus on how "In The Heights" has broken dramatically with how Latinx are usually portrayed. Instead of stereotyping the characters in supporting or minor roles, it has created an authentic story and starring roles. Not only has that expanded the target audience, but it shows how we all, regardless of ethnicity or background, have dreams, aspirations, and struggles.

But while the musical, which Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote before he went on to the phenomenal success of "Hamilton, the Musical," is considered ground-breaking in its positive focus on Latinx, it has still managed to draw criticism for a lack of dark-skinned Afro-Latino actors in both the general cast and especially the more prominent roles.

And while Miranda has responded that he "can hear the hurt and frustration" and is "truly sorry," it wasn't the first time a Latinx-themed musical was criticized for colorism, albeit it had been decades, as Red (the former theater major) points out,

"West Side Story" (both the play and the movie) was criticized for having a mostly white cast wearing dark make-up and speaking with accents. At the time, authenticity obviously wasn't important, as in the movie even Natalie Wood's singing was not hers, they dubbed in an opera singer. However, it was ground-breaking in that it broke the mold of "happy" musicals where everyone lived happily-ever-after by having lead characters "killed off" in front of the audience's eyes.

Just talking about "West Side Story" brings back memories, but since Steven Spielberg will be releasing a remake later this year, we'll have plenty of time to reminisce.

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