EVERYONE loves a good musical.
But in recent years, decent ones have been hard to come by.
And those that have passed muster, such as the smash-hit Mamma Mia!, were based on successful stage shows and so had a ready-made audience.
But now, along comes La La Land and, if early rave reviews are to be believed, this film is credited with single-handedly reviving the great Hollywood musical tradition that brought us such classics as Top Hat and 42nd Street.
Director Damien Chazelle deliberately set out to reintroduce the traditional jazz style with influences from the Golden Age of Hollywood, creating a contemporary musical that balances realism with fantasy musical numbers.
He says: “The idea is to take the old musical, but ground it in real life, where things don’t always exactly work out.”
He also wanted to salute those people who move to Los Angeles (La La Land) to chase their dreams, so his film stars Ryan Gosling as a jazz pianist who falls for Emma Stone’s aspiring actress.
He cast them because they “feel like the closest thing we have right now to an old Hollywood couple like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers”.
And no wonder. It’s the third time the pair have starred as lovers but, after bland rom-com Crazy, Stupid, Love and crime clunker Gangster Squad, the musical genre really lets the two — who both learned to sing and dance for the musical numbers — sparkle.
Emma says: “It was nice to be friends with the person you’re doing all this crazy stuff with —learning to ballroom dance or sing duets live.
“What drew me to the film was the ambition of the project. I love the originality of it and what it was paying homage to.
“It was really cool and interesting to be part of and also equally scary because if the tone wasn’t consistent from the smaller scenes to these big cinemascope musical numbers, I didn’t know how it would turn out.
“That’s the most exciting thing — equal parts of ‘Who knows?’ and ‘Let’s do it!’.
“I told myself when I was pretty young that I wasn’t going to be able to do musicals, even though I wanted to do them so badly.
“I did a lot of youth theatre growing up and did musicals and took voice lessons and dance lessons.
“But I’m not a great, great singer and I’m not a great, great dancer so my dream has been to do musicals on Broadway, but I thought I just wouldn’t be able to do it.
“I didn’t have the stamina or the voice, but Damien was adamant that it didn’t need to be technically perfect, although I think I freaked out 40 times.
“It’s just nice to see something that’s original and has joy in this way. It’s a two-hour escape.”
For his part, Gosling says the dance routines, which may come across as effortless in the movie, were actually the results of months of rehearsals.
“Prior to this film, I had very little dance experience,” he admits. “90s hip-hop just doesn’t seem to translate into soft-shoe.
“You probably won’t want to see me dance again, but I gave it a shot and I had a great time.”
La La Land is in cinemas on January 13.
La La Land swept the boards at the Golden Globes on Sunday, winning a whopping seven awards, including acting honours for stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, and winning Best Musical or Comedy.
The musical is also leading the BAFTA pack, having been nominated for eleven awards, including nods for the two main stars and Best Director for Damien Chazelle. The winners will be announced at the 70th British Academy Film Awards on 12th February.