Shakespeare's Henry IV and Henry V are reimagined as an R&B opera in director Myron Davis's Hal King from Gravitas Ventures. The brainchild of composer and writer Steve Wallace, Hal King is set in a late 1950's jazz era Midwestern town.
Young Hal (Tyrik Ballard) is reveling in the joys of youth. Hal has friends and the ladies at his disposal. Hal's father, Henry (Eric Roberson), a local politician and community leader who speaks about strengthening the African-American community. Hal wants no part of that world or the responsibility that comes with it. Tragedy soon strikes and takes him overseas to the Korean War. He fights bravely and returns home a changed man, ready to take his place, honoring his family legacy. Soon Hal meets Kat (Sharae Moultrie), who shares his passion for the community and is also the daughter of his father's bitter rival. It is a tale of family, rivalry, jealousy, self-discovery, and forbidden love.
I want to give fair warning that the film only features two dialogue lines, and the rest of the film is sung. Also, the film's pacing and tone are that of a theatrical play as opposed to a feature film narrative, so some of the fight scenes play out the same way they would on stage. I've always enjoyed musicals, so I was genuinely excited about the film. Furthermore, Hal King features one of my favorite singers, Mr. Eric Roberson, in a prominent role. In the part of Henry, Roberson has a great scene at the beginning of the film where he makes an eye movement towards Hal, which shows his disdain for his son's life choices. While a brief, subtle moment, Roberson nails the scene, and we've all seen it at one point from the elders in our life.
Tyrik Ballard is a revelation in our lead role as Hal. Were the film a more significant budgeted Hollywood production, I could easily see an Usher or Drake in the lead to get the butts in the seats. On the contrary, though, the film's writer Steve Wallace was integral in the movie casting. I respect his choice to use a semi unknown. Tyrik Ballard excels at both singing and acting. Hopefully, this film opens more doors for him. One of my favorite sequences in the movie is Hal's time in the military. Singer Darien Dean shows off solid supporting work as Hal's cousin and has a killer solo.
The film's third act, where Hal returns home from the military as a more mature man, was also enjoyable. Ballard and Roberson have a great moment as father and son that eschews the sentiment black boys feel when your dad sees you as a man. We then transition into Hal's journey of continuing his father's work and have a budding relationship with Kat. I enjoyed seeing the blossoming black love between Sharae Moultrie and Tyrik Ballard. It comes off as natural and never forced.
My only gripe with the film is that I don't see experience on a larger screen with surround sound. Adapting the literary work of William Shakespeare for a different medium is a go-to route for creatives. The path can lead to great successes such as 10 Things I Hate About You, an adaptation of The Taming of The Shrew or O, a version of Othello. For every success, there can and will be a miss like 1987'S China Girl and 2018's Sherlock Gnomes, both of which were terrible adaptations of Romeo & Juliet.
Pleasantly though, Hal King does the source material justice. The film succeeds with a fantastic score, solid script, and raw talent display with the casts singing. I would love to see Steve Wallace, the cast and crew reunite for another project.
Final Grade B+
Hal King is available today on all streaming platforms.