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Post La La Land - Hollywood's Bid to Revive Film Musicals

Published: 15 Feb 19, 07:50pm  |  Author: DG Music

Writer and director, Damien Chazelle’s unique mix of nostalgia and modernism in 2017’s award winning La La Land captured the hearts of audiences worldwide, as well as notching up 14 Oscar nominations. Since then, there seems to have been a resurgence of the film musical in Hollywood. But how established is this revival?

Disney’s, Beauty and the Beast followed shortly after and, like La La Land, favoured actors as opposed to trained musical stars, with Emma Watson and Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens in the leads. Modifying the classic characters for a contemporary audience, the film received a magnificent 72% on the usually hard-to-please Rotten Tomatoes with critics exclaiming: “With an enchanting cast, beautifully crafted songs, and a painterly eye for detail, Beauty and the Beast offers a faithful yet fresh retelling that honours its beloved source material.” The score was updated with new songs, although fundamentally it remained true to the original music. Financially, it was a huge success but, for me, it didn’t evoke the wistfulness and creativity of the golden age of musicals that La La Land had achieved. 

During 2017, the all-singing and dancing spectacles continued to win over audiences and artists with The Greatest Showman (with its nod to the 50s’ classics of Rogers and Hammerstein) out-ranking Star Wars. And latterly, the film’s soundtrack album reached triple platinum before being reimagined by current artists who put their own spin on the most popular tracks bringing the magic to younger audiences. 

A Star is Born along with Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again took centre stage in 2018 – reminding us that, actually, there have been many hugely successful film musicals in the recent past – Mamma Mia!, Les Miserable, Frozen, Sing Street, Pitch Perfect, High School Musical (x3), Into the Woods and Chicago to name a few, but, for me, none of which quite hit the nostalgia button realised by La La Land. Even the ‘practically perfect’, sequel, Mary Poppins Returns (again starring Emma Blunt – perhaps she is the secret ingredient?) falls slightly short of the innovation created by Chazelle – but, I suppose, the clue is in the title, it is a sequel….however if one is looking for nostalgia, then this film has it in spades. 

Although it failed to win an Oscar – of which many feel Emily Blunt was robbed, it was clearer a winner for audiences worldwide with box office takings surpassing $200 million. Marc Platt, who produced both La La Land and Mary Poppins Returns, stated: “Thankfully, as much as Hollywood is interested in brands, I think people are still looking for originality and freshness. Musicals can also be their own brand: They have an event status. I also think the ceiling on the audience is lifting. You’ve got a new generation of fans who have grown up with television shows like Glee. Music has a way of getting inside all of us and lifting us up.” So, are we seeing the renaissance of the musical at the movies? Is it that the current political climate is driving cinema fans towards pure escapism and fantasy? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

  • Amblin Entertainment’s WEST SIDE STORY (date tbc) directed by Steven Spielberg
  • Warner Bros’ IN THE HEIGHTS (release date: June 26, 2020) 
  • Universal Pictures and Working Title’s Cats (release Date: December) with cast: James Corden, Judi Dench, Jennifer Hudson, Ian McKellen and Taylor Swift
  • Films to look out for in 2019/20 include: Disney’s Aladdin, (release date: May 24) and The Lion King(release date: July 19)


About DG Music

DG Music is a professional Music Agency providing bands and musicians for private events and public performances.

The business has been operating since 2004 and is proud of the professional and friendly service it provides.

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