Disney+ is bringing 2015’s musical Up Here to the small screen as a series, releasing March 24th on Hulu specifically. Don’t let the word “musical” scare you off, either. Actors Mae Whitman and Carlos Valdes bring much more to the table than I anticipated. After a few minutes of worry that I would be stuck in eight episodes of cheesy unironic singing, Up Here really took off, touching on some very real subjects while never taking itself too seriously.
Up Here describe itself as a love story between two ordinary people. While overcoming their own obstacles, they cross paths, but the underlying story is truly much deeper than that. Our leading couple is Lindsay (Whitman, Good Girls, Robot Chicken) and Miguel (Valdes, The Flash, Supergirl), who constantly stand in their own way. Miguel is currently on a path to becoming what he is “supposed” to be, and Lindsay is on a separate path, after years of being what she was “supposed” to be, she is trying to find out who she is.
Watching two characters who are literally on opposite paths—one trying to find themselves and one trying to hide—allows for plenty of miscommunication, ego and panic to get in the way of their happiness. Tie that with the voices in their head—mother, father and childhood best friend for Lindsay, and childhood crush, mother and ex’s lover for Miguel—and there are some very relatable moments throughout the series.
“Taking several very real subjects, like anxiety and doubt, and lacing them with comedy and music works perfectly in Up Here.”
I think most people can relate to both characters in the film. Anyone who has ever been teased for being too much, or pursued the arts when people said they should be doctors or lawyers, or anyone who was ever afraid to stand out, who chose to blend into the background, becoming a shell of themselves as not to rock the boat or draw too much attention, these will be the people Up Here resonates with the most.
Taking several very real subjects, like anxiety and doubt, and lacing them with comedy and music works perfectly in Up Here. Giving the voices in their heads faces helps identify exactly where these doubts and fears come from. The cast playing the “voices” did a great job being both completely irritating (as they are to our main characters) and hilarious.
For example, Scott Porter plays the man Miguel found his ex in bed with (Orsin), who aptly tells him that this experience will help make him a man. From there, his presence is always with Miguel, telling him to hide his feelings, get a real job, and do any other stereotypically macho stuff you can think of. I know Porter from the Netflix series Ginny & Georgia as the sweet, loving Mayor, so this complete 180 was a lot of fun to watch.
These characters become so over the top in their stereotypes, like the overbearing mother, which is very befitting of a musical. This won’t be your Tick Tick…Boom!, or In the Heights, this is more befitting of a sitcom with a musical episode, like How I Met Your Mother or The Flash, which Valdes is no stranger to. This original series is directed by Thomas Kail (Hamilton), with writers from Tick, Tick… Boom!, Frozen II, and WandaVision, so Up Here was in good hands from the get-go.
The songs get more and more comical as the series goes on. Though they may not be bangers that carry on to the radio, they are a lot of fun in each episode. The first episode feels like it is taking a queue from musicals like RENT, where they go along with what is happening in the character’s life, like a walk on the way to work. Later on, there are more Chicago vibes, where they are taken out of reality for each performance. It’s a nice homage to all the different ways a musical can play out.
I don’t know how well Up Here will hold up for more than one season, but they have set it up to keep going. Perhaps it would be better suited as a movie, but only time will tell. That being said, it was a fun eight episodes that I would recommend to anyone I know who loves comedy or romcoms and can stomach a bit of camp in their musicals. Whitman and Valdes really surprised me with what they can do, transitioning from comedy into musicals, and I’m excited to see them both in more diverse roles in the future.