Today we have a guest post from my friend Jennifer Johnson, who is a high school English teacher in Idaho and a lover of musicals.
By Jennifer Johnson
I love musicals. Love them. I see every new musical thing a brave studio produces.
I was so looking forward to La La Land that I strong-armed a friend into braving bad weather in order to catch an early showing.
La La Land begins with a large ensemble number, utilizing a wide variety of singers and dancers. The ensemble presents a believable, multi-cultural spectrum of Los Angeles. It was lovely to experience a variety of faces and musical styles on the screen of a musical; my heart surged with hope that this modern musical would reposition the genre as an inclusive one. After that opening number, however, the human variety disappeared. This welcome variety of voices and bodies vanished. It seemed every African American actor was relegated to the role of jazz musician. The whiteness of La La Land struck me as a Rogers and Hammerstein-era blunder. It is not until the closing number that the full ensemble returns to close the show. Where were they? Why was the ensemble not dancing at the coffee shop? On the movie sets? At the parties? In the jazz clubs? Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are left to carry the dancing themselves, which also turns out to be a mistake.