Lin-Manuel Miranda will reprise his Tony-nominated work as Usnavi.
Kenny Ortega, director of the High School Musical films as well as the recent Michael Jackson documentary This Is It, has signed on to direct the upcoming Universal Pictures big screen adaptation of In the Heights, starring Lin-Manuel Miranda.
"I told the executives at Universal that they were not going to find a guy who has more of a life connection to that story," Ortega told Variety. "I've seen the show six times on Broadway since it opened, several times when Lin played the lead role. He blew me away with his presence and charisma."
Miranda, who created, composed and starred in the original cast of the show, will reprise the role of leading man Usnavi. Quiara Alegría Hudes, who wrote the Tony-nominated book, is set to write the screen adaptation.
Set over three days in the upper Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights, In the Heights is a musical journey into the lives of three generations of inhabitants in the area’s vibrant, diverse community. The show opened at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on March 9, 2008. The musical went on to win Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Choreography, Best Orchestrations and Best Original Score. Miranda also nabbed a nomination for Best Actor.
Ortega got his start as a choreographer, staging musical numbers for films like Xanadu, St. Elmo's Fire, Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Dirty Dancing. He was director and choreographer of the Disney movie musical Newsies in 1992 and experienced a career resurgence with the help of the success of High School Musical and High School Musical 2 on the Disney Channel and High School Musical 3: Senior Year on the big screen. Ortega staged all of Michael Jackson's live stage shows and was working alongside him on his comeback concert at the time of the Jackson's death in June. The concert film This Is It, which earned $71 million during a limited cinematic run, was created by Ortega out of rehearsal footage for the show.
In related news, one of Ortega's High School Musical stars, Corbin Bleu, will take on the role of Usnavi in the Broadway production of In the Heights on January 25.