2021 is the year of Musical film adaptations

It seems we haven’t even scratched the surface of all the great movies that are still to come in 2021. One thing for sure is the number of different musical films that are releasing this year, making it an interesting time in cinema.

As we all know, 2020 was a strange year all together in almost every facet. When it comes to the entertainment industry, a part that took a major hit is cinema. Many films which were scheduled to release last year are now releasing this year, and it feels like a huge game of catch-up. But, the show must go on, and I’m looking forward to finally seeing all of these highly anticipated films. One genre I particularly enjoy is the musical genre. I believe it’s a fantastic form of art and expression seeing a different side to many performers singing songs and participating in a variety of different musical numbers. This year seems to be full of them, but there are a few that stand out above the rest, and they’re films I’m extremely excited to see. I’ll be highlighting four of them in order of their release dates.

In the Heights (June 11, 2021)

Synopsis: Usnavi, a bodega owner, constantly dreams of one day moving to the Dominican Republic. However, when he inherits his Abuela Claudia’s fortune, his dreams start to become a reality. Deep down inside, he starts to wrestle with his mixed feelings of moving on and leaving everything and everyone he loves behind in his Washington Heights, New York neighborhood.

Of all the ones I’ll be discussing, this is the probably the one I’m most excited to see. I’ve been a fan of the Tony Award-winning musical, In the Heights, since it first premiered. I’ve never been able to see it on Broadway, not even on a stage either, but I’ve listened to the entire soundtrack time and time again and it truly never gets old. I was waiting for the moment when this would finally be adapted into a feature film and it’s finally here. It was my most anticipated movie of 2020 and it’s still top three on my list for 2021 films. Lin-Manuel Miranda is an absolute genius, especially when he’s in his element. He created this gem, which includes all the music, the story, and he brought the character of Usnavi de la Vega to life. Although he isn’t directing this one, he’s been alongside director John M. Chu on this ambitious endeavor, so I’m sure he’s making sure this is the adaptation he was dreaming of. It’s also great to see he’ll be playing a role in the movie, that being Mr. Piraguero.

The cast looks phenomenal. Anthony Ramos already has experience playing the main protagonist and he looks very comfortable in the role, especially in the trailers I’ve seen and the two singles that have already been released, those being “In the Heights” and “96,000.” The rest of the cast is shaping up to be great as well, including Corey Hawkins as Benny and Olga Merediz reprising her role as Abuela Claudia. This is a must-see movie of 2021, and I think it’ll have major awards buzz when the time comes.

Dear Evan Hansen (Sep. 24, 2021)

Synopsis: Evan Hansen has a severe case of social anxiety disorder. To cope, he begins to write a letter to himself as a form of therapy, which was recommended by his therapist. Stolen by a classmate, this same classmate later commits suicide, and the parents find that same letter, which they think was intended for Evan. Evan decides to go along with it, taking him through a variety of different events, both inspiring and confrontational, and becomes part of this boy’s life even after death.

If I’m being honest, I actually had no idea this film was so far along. I knew it was in the works, but I just recently found out it would be releasing later this year, and I’m very excited. If I would’ve known, this would’ve definitely made the list of my most anticipated films of 2021. But, nonetheless, it’s a film adaptation of a musical I also love. I’ve never seen this musical on stage either, unfortunately. I do love the soundtrack though, and getting the chance to finally see it on the big screen is something I’m very much looking forward to.

I’m a massive fan of Stephen Chbosky, who has directed one of my favorite films of all time, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and his most recent effort, Wonder, is also an incredibly moving film. He seems to have really mastered the coming-of-age genre and I’m sure his take on Dear Evan Hansen will be no different. Plus, seeing Ben Platt reprising Evan in the main role is fantastic, since I believe there’s no other actor who truly made the role their own like he did. He’s also joined by a fantastic cast, including Julianne Moore, Amy Adams, Kaitlyn Dever, and Amandla Stenberg. Topping In the Heights is tough, but there’s a chance this may end up being my favorite musical of the year.

West Side Story (Dec. 10, 2021)

Synopsis: Taking place in 1950’s New York City, the Jets and Sharks are two rival street gangs who are battling for control of the territory they both occupy. This, however, gets a bit complicated when one of the gang members, Tony, falls in love with the sister of one of his rivals, Maria.

This is the one musical on the list that has been around for a very long time. Premiering back in the 50’s, West Side Story has stood the test of time, being brought back to the stage countless times since it was first introduced. The 1961 film version is also considered a classic by many people. So much so, it’s been deemed “culturally significant” by the United States Library of Congress. In 1997, it was also selected for the National Film Registry. This remake has some pretty big shoes to fill and I’m sure there will be diehard fans of the original ready to see if it can hold up in any way. Luckily, it’s in the most capable hands of Steven Spielberg, who, in my opinion, is one of the most gifted filmmakers of all time.

I was already on board with this from the very first announcement, but after seeing the very first teaser during this year’s Oscar’s, I was sold on it even more. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of West Side Story since I’m a bit uninformed on its success and I’ll probably have to watch the 1961 version prior to this release in order to appreciate it a bit more. But, with the cast involved (Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler, Mike Faist, Corey Stoll, Rita Moreno, etc.), it has plenty of promise and I think it’ll live up to the hype, especially under Spielberg’s masterful direction.

Tick, Tick… Boom! (TBD 2021)

Synopsis: Jonathan Larson is a theater composer who aspires to be a great one. However, as he’s getting close to 30 years old, he begins to realize he isn’t relatively close to his dream, which leads to severe anxiety.

If I’m being honest, I’ve never seen this musical. In fact, I’ve never even listened to any of the songs that are in it. I can’t help but be intrigued by it, though. Lin-Manuel Miranda will actually be at the helm of this one, which will be his directorial debut. Of course, he’s been heavily involved in bringing In the Heights and Hamilton to life on stage, and I’m sure he also played somewhat of a director role in the film adaptation of In the Heights. But, this is actually all him here, so I’m mostly curious to see what he does with it.

Secondly, I’m very excited to see the cast play these characters. I believe Andrew Garfield is an incredibly gifted performer and one of the best actors working today. Seeing him sing now? I don’t think it’s something anybody has seen, which makes this all the more exciting. Vanessa Hudgens has a history of performing in musicals as well, while also being an underrated actress. Tick, Tick… Boom! will catch many people by surprise and could be a big hit in 2021.

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