La La Land in Concert review: Worth making a song and dance about | Theatre | Entertainment

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In a transcendent evening at the iconic Royal Albert Hall in London, the convergence of cinematic brilliance and orchestral grandeur took centre stage. The juxtaposition of a film about making it in the showbiz world opening at a legendary venue usually reserved for the most successful acts created a meta moment of sheer brilliance. 

Despite the unforgettable Best Picture Oscar gaffe, La La Land has etched its mark as an extraordinary success. Director Damien Chazelle’s homage to Los Angeles and the golden era of movie musicals has cultivated a devoted following, evident in the sea of vibrant yellow dresses reminiscent of Emma Stone’s iconic attire in the audience yesterday evening.

A sold-out audience of more than 5,000 enthusiasts gathered to witness the film’s Oscar-winning composer, Justin Hurwitz, command the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, perfectly synchronised with the film projected on a colossal screen.

As the curtains rose and the band also took their seats, attendees were serenaded by the enchanting “Overture” a piece originally excluded from the film but masterfully set the tone for the evening. The infectious energy of “Another Day of Sun” shortly followed – the film’s renowned freeway opening – and captivated the audience from the outset.

Immersed in a diverse crowd of families, couples, and solo aficionados of musical magic, I, a self-professed La La Land enthusiast, marvelled at the proximity of Justin Hurwitz, resplendent in his white tuxedo, guiding the orchestra through the mesmerising “Someone in the Crowd”. The concert seamlessly transitioned into a more intimate ambience, showcasing the pianist’s virtuosity in carrying the narrative through pieces like “Mia & Sebastian’s Theme” and the enchanting “City of Stars.” A delightful switch to synth for the upbeat “Start a Fire” added a modern twist, although the absence of “I Ran” or “Tainted Love” from the pool party scene left us yearning for more (one man can only do so much).

The grand orchestrations reached their zenith with the ethereal “Planetarium,” where Mia and Sebastian waltzed among the stars at Griffith Observatory, and a sweeping “Epilogue” that crescendoed into “The End”.

Each musical note became a conduit of shared emotion, as evidenced by a magical moment of connection with a fellow attendee. A dapper-looking man, sat next to his glamorous-looking wife turned to me as the orchestra played. No words were exchanged but he raised his right arm and ran his hand down it, showing the goosebumps-inducing impact the performance had on him. We were united through our shared appreciation of classical music and cinematic excellence. 

Jazz took centre stage, skillfully led by the orchestra’s trumpet player and a talented ensemble, flawlessly navigating the film’s diverse musical genres. Despite the ambitious nature of the undertaking, the live band rarely faltered, maintaining a harmonious synergy with the film.

It’s also worth noting the lead actors’ vocals are isolated and amplified, which works for Stone (notably in her nervy “Audition”) but not always for Gosling (who seems to get progressively flatter in each rendition of “City of Stars”). There were times when I wasn’t sure if it was it was the band playing the music, or the music from the original film.

But that’s one of the few criticisms in what is otherwise a magical live musical production for a movie that celebrates the magic of live music.

La La Land in Concert is certainly worth making a song and dance about. A performance of approximately two and a half hours, including a 25-minute interval, ensured that every minute was a testament to the captivating allure of this symphonic spectacle. 

The night was unequivocally worth celebrating, a harmonious fusion that deserved a standing ovation.

In the ‘Films in Concert’ series at the Royal Albert Hall, film fanatics can also catch a screening of The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King and the legendary Indiana Jones picture, Raiders of the Lost Ark in 2024.

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