So of course the new film version of Michael John LaChiusa's celebrated 1994 hookup musical Hello Again loses something in its translation from the stage. (LaChiusa's despairing-erotic roundelays were inspired by Arthur Schnitzler's 1897 play La Ronde.) Yes, the film features some of the best that there are, including six-time Tony winner Audra McDonald, but don't expect any of that urgent live intimacy, even in this most intimate of shows. Built around a series of 10 couplings, admirably varied and each set in a different decade of the 20th century, Hello Again tasks its cast with impassioned miming of a panoply of sex acts, the singers conjugating each other like verbs in foreign language class. But rather than bring us closer, the techniques of moviemaking distance us, no matter how the camera presses in. The cutting here is quick, the singing prerecorded, the performers' metabolism shut off from ours. We don't share the moments.
As a sort of keepsake or introduction to LaChiusa's show, Gustafson's film has its value. The cast (featuring Martha Plimpton, Cheyenne Jackson and the superb Jenna Ushkowitz) is strong, and LaChiusa's score -- its stirring evocations of lust and loneliness and fleeting connection -- is well played and sung.