City of Angels
There are not many plays or musicals that star a fiction writer. That is why I really like the musical, City of Angels. Underneath all the glitter and glam, it shows how tough it is to construct a film script even when you have won a Pulitzer Prize for the novel.
In 1989 when the musical City of Angels opened on Broadway, it was a real departure. Cy Coleman’s syncopated Music and Vocal arrangements with Yaron Gershovsky were jazzy, yet very modern, reflecting the film noir themes and clever Book written by Mash’s Larry Gelbart. David Zippel’s Lyrics rippled with staccato beats. The whole piece told the story in 40 unfolding scenes like a film with one side of the set in a Movie, the other in Hollywood.
Darko Tresnjak has met the challenge of directing an interesting and entertaining version of City of Angels on Goodspeed’s small stage. David P. Gordon uses white plantation blinds as a backdrop, which rise and fall to both reveal and hide the cast, costumed creatively by Tracy Christensen. On the Movie side of the set, there is the dark grubby office of private eye, Stone, a defrocked cop, played by dark-haired handsome Burke Moses. A big man with a big voice, Moses has performed on Broadway, and at Goodspeed did a terrific turn as the lead in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. He’s aided by Oolie, his loyal secretary, a very good Sierra Rein, taking over for Nancy Anderson. Stone gets himself in deep trouble by accepting wealthy Alaura Kingsley’s case of her missing step-daughter, Mallory, a sexy Kathleen Rooney. Kingsley is played by Liz Pearce, who is swathed in white.
On the Hollywood side, brightly lit by John Lastier with Shawn Boyle’s cheerful palm tree projections that create the California vibe, is Stine, the likeable D.B. Bonds. He’s married to brown-haired Gabby, the perfect Laurie Wells, who, in a red wig, also portrays a chanteuse, Bobbi, Stone’s first love. Stine loves his wife, but cheats on her with Donna, the assistant to Buddy Fidler, the Producer of his film, City of Angels. Jay Russell fully embodies Fidler, this sleazy producer, who keeps chopping up Stine’s writing, summed up in his song, “The Buddy System.” Danny Bolero is fabulous as a cop, Munoz, in the number, “All You Have to Do Is Wait;” “You’re Nothing Without Me.” a duet of Stine and Stone, is the best song in the show.
However, the most amusing part of City of Angels is when Stine’s typing changes the action of the characters. With the help of Choreographer Jennifer Paulson Lee, the cast moves brilliantly to the words being changed. City of Angels is one of the few musicals I’d like to go back and see again before it closes on November 27.
This review originally aired on WMNR Fine Arts Radio.