City of Angels - Reviews
City of Angels Review
Reviewer, Martin Ball
The Age - Monday 11 December
"Hollywood and Broadway have a fascination with themselves that sees each form cannibalising itself for characters and plots.
But they also turn to each other for content - think of the films Broadway Melody or The Producers.
The 1989 musical City of Angels is a mocking portrait of 1940s Hollywood film noir. The cast includes a hard-boiled detective, a screenwriter and a studio producer.
Throw in a femme fatale, a patriarch in an iron lung and an actress prepared to sleep her way to the top, and you have a full deck of cliches.
The twist is that the show operates in the parallel worlds of the screenwriter Stine and his fictional detective Stone, and when the two start talking to each other the fun really begins. It's a great book by Larry Gelbart, laden with wry ironies. Sure it's overwritten and 20 minutes too long, but you have to love lines like "she had a body that made the Venus de Milo look all thumbs".
Broadway musicals are generally about bigger is better, so it's a surprise to see this show produced by one of Melbourne's many small independent companies, Just Pretending, and staged in the intimate environs of fortyfivedownstairs.
It's a feat even of the imagination to fit a cast of 15 and a five-piece band into this space, but it mostly works, and all credit to director Peter Mattesi.
Mark Doggett and Tom Stringer are strong as Stine and Stone respectively.
Doggett has a clear and confident singing voice and Stringer revels in his deadpan one-liners. Their duet, You're Nothing Without Me, is the show's highlight.
Jane Harber is excellent as the devious and sexy Alaura Kingsley, with a look that demands attention and commands obedience.
Nicolette Minster brings dignity and character to the wallflower roles of Oolie and Donna with her fine vocal delivery.
Sarah-Louise Younger completes the formula of female parts. She sings well as Bobbi, the jazz-singer-turned-prostitute, although she is still finding her emotional range.
There are some compromises: the voice-over monologue is ineffectual; the band plays well, but without a pit it tends to dominate the singers; the male voices in the quartet can't find their pitch.
Although the direction is snappy, the second half slows - and you know there is a huge set gone missing. But these quibbles aside, City of Angels is a great chance to see a recent Broadway musical. And at $30 a ticket, it's affordable too."
City of Angels Review
Reviewer, Kate Herbert
Herald Sun, Monday 11 December
"A film noir in musical form, City of Angels was set in the 1940s but written in the late '80s. It has a stellar pedigree of writers (Cy Coleman, Larry Gelbart, David Zippel), won six Tony Awards in 1990 and also took the Edgar Award for Best Play.
Coleman's score is steeped in the jazz of the '40s and is complemented by Zippel's complex lyrics that reflect the rhythms and rhymes of the period.
Gelbart constructs a cunning dual plotline.
Hero No.1 is Stine (Mark Doggett) writing a screenplay of his own detective novel for Buddy (Chris Watkins), the fast-talking Hollywood studio boss. Buddy controls both the script and Stine's career.
Meanwhile, Stine's characters come to life in a parallel tale inside the movie script.
Stine's hard-nosed gumshoe Stone (Tom Stringer), helped by loyal secretary Oolie (Nicolette Minster), struggles to solve the mystery of a missing girl, to resist the wily femme fatale Alaura (Jane Harber) and to avoid being beaten, shot and arrested.
The script is homage to Raymond Chandler. "She was a handful - maybe two if you played your cards right," quips Stone. The dialogue is colourful and witty, the twin stories woven together with characters having counterparts in each.
Commonly the movie scenes are played in black and white and the Hollywood writers scenes are in colour. This production uses a clever, cartoon-like noir backdrop (Sahr Willis) for both realities.
Doggett is compelling as Stine, with a rich, soaring voice. His rendition of Double Talk and of Stine's solo Funny were riveting.
His duo with Stringer, You're Nothing Without Me, was exhilarating and impassioned.
Stringer plays Stone with a laconic ease, though his character is more downbeat than suave and sexy.
Harber has a feline, seductive quality in her twin sex-kitten roles.
Minster sings the lament of the secretaries, You Can Always Count on Me, with great conviction.
There is a good support cast in Sarah Louise Younger, Paul Gartside, Margaret Paul and Jeremy Hopkins.
The Angel City Quartet, singing the chorus numbers, is to be commended for it's truth to the '40s style. The seven-piece band, under Adrian Portell, was tight and polished.
Though some of the acting was uneven, director Peter Mattessi has created a charming show."