A brilliant, if complex, script and a series of magnificent voices are the hallmarks of this wickedly funny celebration of 1940s film noir and dark detective fiction, which is two musicals in one.
City of Angels focuses upon an ambitious Hollywood screenwriter, Stine (Anton Berezin), who struggles with a demanding studio boss (Troy Sussman) as he incessantly makes changes to his written word. In parallel, his creation, a private eye (Stine’s alter ego) named Stone (Kane Alexander) takes on a life of his own and gatecrashes Stine’s world. So, there you have it, two plots unfolding alongside each other, one supporting the other – devilishly clever but not easy to get your head around.
Each scene that Stine writes comes to life on stage, bringing laughter and intrigue for the audience. In the black and white movie plot, Alaura Kingsley (Anne Wood), the wife of a millionaire, enlists the services of Stone to find her stepdaughter Mallory (Hannah Fredericksen), who has gone missing. Things get steamy when Detective Stone finds Mallory in the most unlikely of places: his bedroom. Stine’s characters become embroiled in a larger-than-life mystery involving a rich man, his missing daughter and a scheming wife. And while composing the plot, the screenwriter is also on a dangerous path in his personal life, juggling his wife (Chelsea Plumley) with his lover (Amanda Harrison).
Winner of six Tony Awards and the 2015 Olivier Award winner for Best Musical Revival, City of Angels is a decidedly ambitious musical that works a treat. It has a wonderful jazz score by Cy Coleman, sizzling lyrics from David Zippel and is from a book by acclaimed comic screenwriter Larry Gelbart (M*A*S*H, Tootsie). This Australian production is deftly directed by Martin Croft, with musical direction from Kellie Dickerson and choreography by Kelly Aykers.
It is energetic, pacey and requires concentration to follow, but the rewards are certainly there for those that do.
The cast is super talented and the musical is deliciously different to others I have seen in terms of execution. The opening night audience was in raptures.
Put together a liberal dose of femme fatale with black comedy, throw in a whodunit and some big voices in a 13-strong cast and “bingo” out pops this gem. The only shame is that it such a short season. City of Angels is slated for only four performances at the Playhouse Theatre at the Victorian Arts Centre from 5 – 8 November 2015.
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television