You may have read about the early success of a new musical on the festival circuit called La La Land…but there is another film just coming to theaters that warrants your attention, especially if you care about the future of musical film. London Road is based on the much-praised National Theatre stage production and it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.
For one thing, there’s the subject matter: the effect a serial killer has on a working-class street in Ipswich, England. The lyrics are based on testimony and interviews given by various people who recount their feelings and experiences after their quiet neighborhood was rocked to its very core…and then, somehow, found a way to revitalize and reinvent itself.
Leading the cast is the glorious Olivia Colman, a chameleon-like actress whose presence has graced such varied films and TV shows as The Night Manager, Broadchurch, and The Lobster. She’s the kind of performer who effortlessly commands your attention, as she does here, playing one of the neighbors who takes a leadership position trying to defend and improve her home turf.
There is also a cameo appearance by the great Tom Hardy, who makes his singing debut onscreen as a taxi driver.
The songs are not particularly melodic or memorable; they are more like operatic recitative, complete with “uhs” and other figures of conversational speech. It takes some getting used to, but after a short while I found myself transfixed.
All praise to Alecky Blythe, who wrote the screenplay and lyrics, Adam Cork, who wrote the music and collaborated on the lyrics, choreographer Javier De Frutos, cinematographer Danny Cohen, and stage director Rufus Norris, who has only directed one film for television.
This innovative feature makes me sorry to have missed the play, which apparently was quite different in a number of ways. All I know is that London Road is a singular achievement. I know it won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I found myself transported.