Review: “La La Land” – Just go enjoy it!

I’ve been itching to see “La La Land” since it came out in Malaysia nine days ago, and it finally happened today.

Verdict? It’s lovely, fun, exuberant, smart, nostalgic, and just plain terrific. Go see it!

It’s a classic love story of two artists, one a jazz pianist and other aspiring actress, who find each other, fall in love, inspire each other to reach for the stars, and end up attaining those dreams, but not in the way the audience might think.

I won’t provide any spoilers, but the chemistry between Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone is electric. The music is an infectious, toe-tapping romp through many musical genres, but especially raw, robust jazz and heart-warming show tunes, which high school drama troupes will be singing for decades to come.

This picture is very much a throwback to the classic old musicals from Hollywood’s heyday. There are so many lovely visuals and magical moments that you’ll swear that Fred Astaire is going to pop out and tap dance on top of a car roof or something.

This movie is a Broadway mega-hit ready to happen. I have no doubt that it will. Once it debuts in New York then London, give it a few years, and it will be standard high school fare. That’s not a criticism, by the way. It’s an acknowledgment of the scripts universal themes, nostalgic feel, and lively music, which will make it a winner for years to come.

Classic Movie Review: 1776

Classic Movie Review: 1776

As a history and musical buff, the classic, founding-father’s musical film of 1972 is a true feast for the eyes and the ears.

If the thought of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin singing and dancing their way to the first Independence Day is a bizarre thought, you’d be right. Who could ever take them seriously?

The great thing about this movie is that there’s no need to take it seriously, because it’s meant to be a joyous, fun romp, wrapped up in political intrigue and dysfunction in the first degree. It’s a comforting thoughts that Congress has always been lampooned as a do-nothing kind of body, in 1776, 1972, and even today. Some things never change, especially in politics.

This is the most fun you’ll have learning how the founding fathers of the United States overcame a myriad of obstacles, some seemingly too great to scale, in order to forge the Declaration of Independence and set the course for the Revolutionary War which is still impacting the world today.

Benjamin Frankin is played as one part wise sage, two parts irreverent and sarcastic wit who is a hoot to watch. Likewise, John Adams is played splendidly as the hot-headed New Englander who both prodded and stalled progress by his brash, courageous and overbearing attitudes.

But this is not all fluff. There are poignant scenes recalling the death of comrades at the Lexington Green, and, of course, the difficult skiff over slavery which nearly destroyed the opportunity for independence for the union.

“1776” is a musical I whole-heartedly recommend. And make your kids watch it too!

Musical Review: Broken Bridges @ PenangPAC

I caught the self-called “Broadway-like” musical “Broken Bridges” at PenangPAC on Friday night, and even though its run has finished, I thought I’d give my take on the production.

Here’s my grades:

Set: A- (Very good use of space. Nicely decorated to bring Ipoh to life.)

Music: A- (The lyrics and musical numbers were good. Lively, vibrant, moved the story along, and were just, overall, enjoyable.

Production: A (There was a constant flow to the production which was encouraging to see here. With such a large cast – about 25 – the dancing, music, set-piece-moving all contributed very well to the storyline.

Writing: C+ (The actual storyline was average. The first act, especially, was extremely simple. A son, not happy with small time life, goes against the advice of his father to find his fortune and happiness in Singapore. That’s the premise. And that’s about it.  The second act became more substantial and actually became much more of a morality tale, teaching us about the choices we make and the consequences of our actions. It also showed how culture can be crippling and unforgiving.

But I can’t fault the writing too much because the focus was definitely on the songs and the dance routines which were done with energy and purpose.

It’s probably my favorite musical that I’ve seen at PenangPAC since it opened two years ago. A solid production with a simple, timeless story.

I hope to see more productions like this in the future.

Review: Songs for a New World Musical @ PenangPAC

I attended the second performance of “Songs for a New World” last night at Penang Performing Arts Centre.

“Songs for a New World” is not a musical which is set with a standard story line. It consists of a dozen or so songs, from upbeat to gospel to ballad, which highlight different aspects of life. The songs touch on love, faith, hardship, hope, and tender moments like a mother expecting a child. The songs are choreographed with photos, interesting light arrangements, and simple, yet effective, dance moves.

The production is handled by veteran director Christopher Ling and the songs are performed by the vocal quartet Caipifruta. The quartet handle the songs in an enthusiastic and capable manner. I especially enjoyed the two gospel-tinged numbers, which were both full of energy and life. A couple of the songs fell flat, but the live pianist who backed them up often spruced up those numbers, as well.

It had a positive and upbeat message – something often lacking in modern theatrical productions. For that, it was a breath of fresh air, and I recommend you catching the show either Saturday at 8:30 or Sunday at 3:00.