In the Heights is a musical with music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda and a book by Quiara Alegría Hudes. The story is set over the course of three days, involving characters in the largely Dominican neighborhood of Washington Heights in New York City.
After a 2005 tryout in Waterford, Connecticut and a 2007 off-Broadway run, the show opened on Broadway in March 2008. It was nominated for thirteen Tony Awards and won four, including Best Musical. A film adaptation of the musical was originally set for release on June 26, 2020, but it has been postponed to June 11, 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the sun rises on the hottest day of the summer, Usnavi de la Vega, the owner of a small bodega in Washington Heights, chases away a small-time vandal, Graffiti Pete, before introducing the audience to the corner he lives on and some of its many residents: Abuela Claudia, a matriarchal figure who helped to raise Usnavi among others; Usnavi’s young, lazy cousin Sonny who helps run the bodega; Daniela and Carla, who run the local salon; and Kevin and Camila Rosario, who run the cab company (“In the Heights”). As the day begins, the Rosarios’ daughter Nina arrives home from her first year at Stanford University. Often considered the “one who made it out” and the pride of the corner, Nina dreads telling her parents and neighbors the truth of her return home: that she dropped out of Stanford because she had to work two jobs to maintain her tuition, leading to her getting poor grades and losing her scholarship (“Breathe”). As she tries to find her parents to tell them the news, she runs into Benny, Usnavi’s best friend and an employee of Kevin’s who has been temporarily left in charge of the dispatch while Kevin seeks to solve a financial problem. Clearly harboring latent romantic feelings for one another, Benny and Nina reconnect (“Benny’s Dispatch”). Elsewhere, Vanessa, an employee of Daniela’s at the salon (and with whom Usnavi had long been infatuated), dreams of one day leaving the corner and getting an apartment in the West Village (“It Won’t Be Long Now”). While she is on a break at the salon, Sonny asks her out on a date on Usnavi’s behalf, and she accepts; Usnavi rejoices at his success but worries that Vanessa may forget about him and the rest of the community when she moves.
Nina reunites with her parents and is ultimately forced to reveal that she dropped out. Her parents are stunned at this revelation (as well as her dishonesty) and Kevin grows devastated that he has been unable to provide for his family, fearing that he has continued the cycle started by his father, a poor tenant farmer (“Inútil”). Nina escapes to the salon to seek comfort from Vanessa, but Daniela and Carla insist on giving her a makeover and subjecting her to their gossip about the goings-on in the neighborhood, specifically about Nina and Vanessa’s respective love interests (“No Me Diga”). The attention turns once more to Nina and her successes, however, forcing Nina to reveal the truth once more about Stanford and leave exasperatedly.
As Usnavi closes up shop, he, Benny, Sonny, and Graffiti Pete discover that the bodega has sold a winning lottery ticket worth $96,000. They and soon the rest of the block begin to fantasize about what they would do if they won the small fortune (“96,000”). As the excitement dies down, Abuela Claudia sits down to feed the birds and reminisces about her childhood in Cuba and her life in relative poverty, and the events that have led her to where she is today. With tears of gratitude, she reveals that she holds the winning lottery ticket, and thanks her years of patience and faith for bringing her this fortune (“Paciencia y Fe”). Elsewhere, Nina finds solace in Benny, who takes her on a walk down the street corner and reminisces with her, reminding her of her childhood and her home. Nina expresses her doubts about her own self-worth to Benny, but he reassures her that she is destined for greatness (“When You’re Home”). As they head to Nina’s house for dinner, the local Piragua Guy continues his day selling piraguas through the intense heat and competing with Mister Softee (“Piragua”).
Kevin and Camila host Nina, Benny, Usnavi, Vanessa, and Abuela Claudia for dinner where Kevin makes an announcement: he has sold the car service to pay for Nina’s tuition. Nina and Camila are shocked but Benny, who had long dreamed of taking over the car service, is outraged and confronts Kevin over his decision. Kevin insists that Rosario’s is a family business and that Benny will never be family; Benny subsequently leaves in a huff and Nina, refusing to accept the money, follows him out. Usnavi soon arrives at a local club for his date with Vanessa, but is overly nervous and aloof, leading Vanessa to dance with other guys to make him jealous; Usnavi soon finds his own dance partner and tries to make Vanessa jealous in turn. Nina follows Benny to the club to apologize for her father’s decision but Benny, already drunk, angrily brushes her off (“The Club”). Tensions rise in the club as the two couples cope with their own jealousy, culminating in Benny punching a man dancing with Nina, causing a fight to break out. Suddenly, the power goes out throughout the city as a result of the intense heat and humidity. The neighborhood descends into chaos as Usnavi and Vanessa, as well as Benny and Nina, desperately try to find their way back to one another. Sonny and Graffiti Pete, fearing looters, set off fireworks to distract potential robbers as well as to light everyone else’s way home. Usnavi reunites with Abuela Claudia, who shows him her lottery winnings, and Benny and Nina find each other amid the chaos, and despite initially arguing, they finally kiss (“Blackout”).
Nina and Benny spend the night together in Benny’s apartment as Kevin frantically searches for her all night; Benny worries about what Kevin will say about their relationship but is happy to finally be with her (“Sunrise”). Down the street, Usnavi, whose bodega has been looted, convenes with Abuela Claudia to discuss what will happen with the money. Abuela Claudia decides to give Sonny and Usnavi each a third of the money and urges Usnavi to use it to achieve his lifelong dream of returning to his home in the Dominican Republic. While Usnavi shares some doubts, he eventually decides to go (“Hundreds of Stories”). Nina eventually returns home to find her parents worried sick about her, and Kevin grows furious when he learns she was with Benny, disapproving of their relationship due to Benny’s not being Latino. Nina and Kevin loudly argue before Camila intervenes, criticizing Kevin for throwing Benny out and Nina for not coming home. She urges them to come together and work things out as a family (“Enough”).
As the neighborhood copes with their frustration over the heat and blackout, Daniela urges them to dispel the negativity and muster up enough energy for a neighborhood celebration. As the block reluctantly begins making the most of a bad situation, Daniela leads the crowd in mocking Vanessa for not realizing Usnavi’s feelings for her as well as Benny for his tryst with Nina the previous night. Usnavi soon emerges and announces Abuela Claudia’s winning of the lottery as well as their flight for the Dominican Republic the following day. Vanessa is visibly upset by his leaving, and so is Sonny, who has long had a crush on Nina and whose only close relative is Usnavi. Usnavi calms Sonny down by revealing that they plan to give him a third of the lottery winnings and begins to rouse excitement throughout the block once more by encouraging them to celebrate before everything changes (“Carnaval del Barrio”).
As they continue dancing and celebrating, a visibly upset Nina arrives and pulls Usnavi offstage, and soon Kevin makes an announcement over the dispatch: Abuela Claudia has suddenly died (“Atención”). Usnavi holds an impromptu memorial for Abuela Claudia, revealing that she died of “a combination of the stress and heat,” and soon Nina leads the entire block in singing Abuela’s praises (“Alabanza”). Afterward, Usnavi and Nina go through Abuela’s old photographs to reminisce. Nina begins to remember the central role Abuela Claudia played in her education and motivation, and in memory of Abuela, she resolves to accept her parents’ money and give college another try, returning to Stanford at the end of the summer (“Everything I Know”). As Vanessa prepares to move out, Daniela gives her a final piece of news: Usnavi convinced Daniela to cosign Vanessa’s lease for her new apartment (“No Me Diga (Reprise)”). As the blackout continues, the Piragua Guy rejoices in the effect the heat has had on his business (“Piragua (Reprise)”).
Overwhelmed by his kind act, Vanessa visits a flustered Usnavi as he cleans up the bodega and flirts with him, offering him a bottle of champagne. She quietly suggests to the distracted Usnavi that he should stay in the neighborhood, worried that if he leaves, she will never see him again, but Usnavi, overwhelmed, firmly rejects this. Vanessa kisses him before leaving, lamenting that she was too late in realizing her feelings for him (“Champagne”). As Nina tells Benny of her decision, they agree to spend the summer together before pursuing a long-distance relationship when she returns to school; Benny reaffirms his faith in her, and they promise to think of one another every day while they are apart (“When The Sun Goes Down”). Benny confronts Kevin for a final time, insisting that he was always there for him while Kevin never did the same. As the night winds down, Sonny approaches Graffiti Pete with a secret proposition, which Pete accepts.
The next morning the neighborhood has visibly changed: the car service sign over the Rosarios’ building has been removed, and the grate in front of the bodega is still open. As Usnavi plays Abuela Claudia’s old records, he comes to terms with the fact that the corner is about to change and wonders if anyone will notice that he’s gone in the long run. Before he leaves, Sonny approaches him and, having fixed the bodega’s grate, pulls it down, revealing a graffiti mural of Abuela Claudia painted by Pete. Seeing the mural, Usnavi has an epiphany and tasks Sonny and Graffiti Pete with telling the neighborhood of his decision to stay. As he reflects on his role as the neighborhood’s storyteller, Usnavi ponders a potential future with Vanessa as he strives to ensure that his family’s legacy is remembered and accepts the corner as his true home (“Finale”).