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Could "La La Land" Musical Shed Bigger Spotlight On Jazz?

It didn’t take long, but some of the most predictable news to come out of Hollywood in quite some time has now been made official. La La Land, the movie musical. that was released late in 2016, is being turned into an actual musical. The thinking in the industry is that this was obvious and inevitable, given that the movie was essentially made for the stage. Fans of the film’s subject matter might have mixed reactions though.

Purely as a movie, La La Land seemed to be almost universally beloved. Heading into Oscars season, many people expected that La La Land ought to dominate the awards. And though it didn’t wind up winning Best Picture, it still felt like the headliner of the evening—or at least the co-headliner next to Moonlight, the surprise Best Picture winner. In some ways it was the epitome of a Hollywood movie that celebrating the best of the film industry at the same time. As any kind of homage to jazz, however, the movie faced some criticism. It’s not really a movie about jazz, in the end, but director Damien Chazelle (who also made Whiplash) appears to be a huge fan of the genre. After all, Ryan Gosling’s character, Sebastian, is an aspiring jazz pianist who spends half the film lamenting the modern state of music. He views jazz as having been largely perverted by modern artists selling out for radio play, and believes the true music has been relegated to a few shadowy bars. There might be some truth to this vision for a fan of classic jazz, but others have noted that the movie doesn’t really know what it’s talking about. Sebastian’s vision puts jazz in a box, when the whole point of the genre is arguably flexibility and adaptation. But the musical could do things differently. One of the other things that keeps La La Land from being a full-fledged tribute to jazz is that there isn’t actually that much jazz in it. There are definitely some good scenes worked in, but most of the songs that made up the instant hit soundtrack had little to do with the genre. That said, when it was announced that there was a musical in the works, producer Jordan Horowitz suggested that he and others from the crew would be writing more music for a stage production. There wasn’t much clarity, but that could mean that there will be a little more jazz worked into the track list. That, coupled with the movie’s existing subject matter, could make a stage production an interesting jazz event in the years ahead.

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