Musicals like “Hello Again” are far and few between these days. It seems big studios are hard-pressed to re-capture that magical time in cinema when actors sang the storyline. So much so, their only recently successful entry was an homage to that golden era with “LA LA Land.”
But “Hello Again” not only refreshes the lyrical cinematic form, it surpasses it.
“Hello Again” is an adaptation of composer-librettist Michael John LaChiusa from his 1993 chamber musical which follows the romantically challenged cast through decades of both intercourse and discourse.
Each character brings a certain aspect of themselves to each labeled time period and into the next scene, they don’t age and they aren’t the same person they were previously.
These scattered sequences are initially going to confuse you if you aren’t familiar with the play, although there isn’t really a linear story per se, they are more like vignettes. But you will get used to that once you realize the artistically stylized timeline doesn’t go in order. By then you’re fully mesmerized by the performances and songs of each micro-act anyway.
Your ears will become invested, so settle yourself in and enjoy the ride in one of the most original musicals to come along since “Across the Universe.”
The first scene is probably going to leave you the most perplexed. In it Martha Plimpton seeks the company of a seemingly asexual genderless emcee who works in a futuristic (?) sex arcade, dishing out sage advice.
From there, we jump into a World War II tryst between Nolan Gerard Funk and Jenna Ushkowitz, which then moves forward in time without Nolan but puts Jenna with Al Calderon in a different narrative. End scene with those two and open on Al with Rumer Willis in a different time, and so on. There are ten duets in all.
Every scene is a beautiful and edgy exploration of sexuality and heartbreak. I was stunned at Rumer Willis, having only seen her acting abilities I never knew she was so vocally talented. I dare say she stole the show, but everyone involved seems to outdo the previous performer.
Perhaps the most committed and memorable spot though goes to Audra McDonald. Yes, we all know she can sing, but her level of commitment in “Hello Again” goes far beyond anything she has ever done. And she gives the film its mainstream song “Beyond the Moon” that could be a Billboard dance smash and should be nominated for an Academy Award. The song disrespects McDonald’s voice with auto-tune, but that is all a part of her storyline and makes perfect sense in the end
“Hello Again” isn’t a film that is going to give novices to the genre a new appreciation for it, in fact, it may scare a few away with some of its raw sexualized energy.
But, to those of us who are able to see what it is trying to say, what it’s trying to change and how the actors are so undeniably invested in their storylines, we can probably categorize this as one of the best modern movie musicals ever made.
Sexually charged and thoroughly enjoyable, “Hello Again” is a modern day musical that manages to pull every ounce of talent from its cast while giving the audience a multitude of things to appreciate without overselling its message.
“Hello Again” is now playing in San Diego at AMC Fashion Valley and AMC Mission Valley. Click HERE for details.