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The Biggest Changes In the Heights Makes to the Stage Musical

In: a new structure, a new subplot, a new song. Out: Donald Trump.

6/11/2021 12:06:00 AM

Sorry, “Inútil,” but apparently the filmmakers thought you lived up to your name.

In: a new structure, a new subplot, a new song. Out: Donald Trump.

The most significant change the movie makes is dragging out the suspense of who won the $96,000 jackpot. It takes almost two hours to find out! Compare that to the stage musical, where we learn pretty early on that Abuela has the winning ticket, before the blackout even begins. Rather than hiding her good fortune as she does in the movie, Abuela proposes that she and Usnavi use the winnings to go to the Dominican Republic. Alas, she never makes it, since she dies in the second act.

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AdvertisementAdvertisementIn the movie, Usnavi’s desire to return to DR is more than a dream: He’s already making actual plans to leave, putting a deposit down on his father’s old bar. Abuela’s death only seems to confirm his decision to leave Washington Heights. It’s not until later, when he’s going through Abuela’s things, that he finds the ticket stashed away with a note: “For Usnavi.”

This change alters the context of Abuela’s song “Patienca y Fe,” about leaving Cuba for the United States, which occurs much earlier in the stage musical and ends with the revelation that she has the lottery ticket. In Chu’s version, the musical number takes place during the blackout, as Abuela lies down and imagines a fantasy subway station. After recalling what she and her mother had to sacrifice to come to America, Abuela concludes the song by climbing the subway steps, going toward the light. The song ends with her death.

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