La La Land is brought to life as it returns to the big screen in theatres around the UK, accompanied by a live orchestra.
As I sat perched above the sixty-piece orchestra, looking out over a brightly coloured sea of fanatics, all waiting with baited breath, I couldn’t help but cast my mind back to my feelings when I watched the opening sequence of La La Land for the very first time. My initial trepidation so quickly melted away as I was caught up in the melody and fun of ‘Another Day of Sun’ – the film’s renowned opening sequence featuring a massive dance ensemble along a jam-packed LA highway.
Nine months after its release, La La Land is hailed as the best film ever made by many. With six Academy Awards including best score and best song, it’s no surprise that La La Land has taken to theatres again, this time for a live round. And it didn’t disappoint. The UK tour sees the Novello orchestra, conducted by David Mahoney, bringing the score to life. “Unashamedly showbiz” is their tagline; and it fits. Mahoney (he’s rubbed shoulders with the likes of Sir Tom Jones, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Dame Shirley Bassey) has a palpable charisma as he introduces his orchestra under the dazzling spotlight, and more so when he leads the way through Jason Hurwitz’s iconic score.
I found myself eagerly peering into the ensemble to spot each instrument as the film played – can they really sound every note? Yes, they can. It was a tad disconcerting at first, so interested was I in watching the orchestra, that I would jump back to watch the widescreen having lost my place in the story somewhat. The moments where there was little or no dialogue were the ones that really shone – the more subtle notes of the melody, and the delicacy of Hurwitz’s score was realised, such as in the quieter moments of City of Stars and Audition. That said, when it was all-go, the volume and tempo made it a 3-D experience and the orchestra played impeccably throughout: in the Jazz bar every punchy trumpet note was spot-on, and when Ryan Gosling’s character, Sebastian, goes on tour, the contemporary keyboards in ‘Start a Fire’ were perfectly executed live in front of us – which I wasn’t expecting. This orchestra appear to have it all when it comes to bringing the theatre to life.
It was the piano which was the triumph of the night though. Every single note was perfect, and seemingly effortless, as the pianist’s skilled fingers danced across the keys in perfect time with Gosling’s, to the rapturous applause of a sell-out audience. The final, melancholy notes of the trumpet in the last, heart-wrenching scenes, came a close second as they tugged on our heartstrings with every puff of air.
The opening and closing pieces, and when Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian are dancing under the stars at the Griffith Observatory, were the highlights of the night; when the orchestra wasn’t diluted with dialogue, beautiful imagery filled the screen, and the score swept us up entirely in this valentine to Los Angeles and to those who dream.