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City of Angels

Also see Sharon's review of Jay Johnson: The Two and Only!

City of Angels
Stephen Bogardus and
Burke Moses

There's breaking the fourth wall and then there's City of Angels. The show, by Larry Gelbart, Cy Coleman, and David Zippel, is two musicals in one - the hard-boiled detective story of Stone, a 1940s streetwise private dick; and the story of Stine, his rather more na´ve novelist/creator, who is adapting one of his Stone novels for the screen. There's a certain amount of overlap between the two worlds. People from Stine's life are transformed into characters in Stone's world, and a psychologist would have a field day analyzing how Stine's feelings of guilt for having cheated on his wife manifest themselves in Stone's failed relationship with the love of his life. But, on a more basic level than that, we see how Stine's position as Stone's writer changes Stone's experiences. From the show's opening scene, we are shown how Stine's rewrites can stop Stone is his tracks and send him down a different path. And, at the end of the first act in the show's best-known number, "You're Nothing Without Me," Stone finally gets to fight back, stepping out of his pages and confronting Stine face-to-face.

In Reprise's production, matters are kept straight by leaving Stone's world in black and white while Stine's is in color, a conceit used in the original Broadway production, although here the production values are scaled down. Indeed, a colorful poster of Stine's novel and a black and white poster of the Stone film serve to remind the audience which story it is watching at any given time. While there are several actual set pieces (desks and a bed), the staging relies on a handful of chairs (brightly colored in Stone's world) to fill in the blanks - a technique that comes off looking a little cheap, even acknowledging Reprise's tight budget.

The performances are generally good, with a few standouts. Burke Moses is right on target as Stone - he's instantly believable as the cocksure, charismatic detective. By the top of the second act, the audience has grown so accustomed to him nailing every one of Larry Gelbart's one-liners, he very nearly gets laughs before the lines are fully out. There's a lot more complexity going on in Stephen Bogardus's Stine. The fact that he has played the role before (when City of Angels played the Shubert in L.A.) is surely an advantage here, and he gives us a complete portrait of the writer with all of his flaws and insecurities. Both men are strong vocally, and their "You're Nothing Without Me" does not disappoint.

Other memorable moments come from Tami Tappan Damiano, who plays both Stine's wife - the smart, yet mousy, Gabby, who is too good for him - and Stone's ex-fiancee -- a lounge singer named Bobbi. Damiano, more than any other performer, has an opportunity to really shine in her double role. As Gabby, her clear voice rings out in her half of the "What You Don't Know About Women," duet, but what is more remarkable is hearing her voice take on a sultry, smoky quality when she becomes Bobbi. Vicki Lewis, who plays Stone's secretary Oolie, and holds up her end of the "What You Don't Know ..." duet, briefly takes over the show after intermission with "You Can Always Count On Me," a song that spans Lewis's roles in both worlds of City of Angels.

The problem - which may be inherent in the show - is that it doesn't seem to amount to anything more than the sum of its parts. There are some excellent performances, some great laughs (David Zippel's Tony Award-winning lyrics are some of the smartest in recent memory - I'm still laughing at "I've been through DeMille"), and a few of the songs are surely "in the zone." But with the placement of the best material bookending the intermission, and the show's plot resolving itself fairly implausibly, City of Angels just doesn't leave you leaping to your feet.

City of Angels runs through February 5, 2006 at UCLA Freud Playhouse. For tickets and information, see www.reprise.org.

Reprise! Broadway's Best - Jim Gardia, Producing Director - presents City of Angels. Book by Larry Gelbart; Music by Cy Coleman; Lyrics by David Zippel. Vocal Arrangements by Cy Coleman and Yaron Gershovsky. Scenic Design Bradley Kaye; Costume Design Alex Jaeger; Lighting Design Tom Ruzika; Sound Design Philip G. Allen; Orchestrations by Billy Byers; Associate Music Director Lisa LeMay; Music Coordinator Joe Soldo; Technical Director Brian Staubach; Casting Director Julia Flores; Production Stage Manager Ronn Goswick; Press Representative David Elzer/DEMAND PR; Company Manager Danny Feldman; General Manager Kelly Estrella. Music Direction by Gerald Sternbach; Choreography by Kay Cole; Directed by Joe Leonardo. Cast:
Movie Cast:
Stone - Burke Moses
Oolie - Vicki Lewis
Alaura Kingsley - Margeurite MacIntyre
Jimmy Powers - Kevin Earley
Angel City Four - Teresa Marie Sanchez, Brent Schindele, Joe Souza, Anne Fraser Thomas
Big Six - Herschel Sparber
Sonny - Randy Brenner
Lt. Munoz - Daniel Guzman
Bobbi - Tami Tappan Damiano
Irwin S. Irving - Stuart Pankin
Peter Kingsley - Wes Ramsey
Margaret - Freyda Thomas
Dr. Mandril - Gary Cearlock
Luthor Kingsley - Eric Leviton
Mallory Kingsley - Alli Mauzey
Mahoney - Eric Leviton
Dr. Sidney Erlichman - Randy Brenner
Gaines - Gary Cearlock
Officer Pasco - Wes Ramsey
Margie - Freyda Thomas
Margie's Girls - Teresa Marie Sanchez, Anne Fraser Thomas
Hollywood Cast:
Stine - Stephen Bogardus
Buddy Fidler - Stuart Pankin
Gabby - Tami Tappan Damiano
Donna - Vicki Lewis
Anna - Freyda Thomas
Carla Haywood - Marguerite MacIntyre
Del Dacosta - Eric Leviton
Party Guests - Gary Cearlock, Wes Ramsey, Teresa Marie Sanchez, Brent Schindele, Joe Souza, Anne Fraser Thomas, Freyda Thomas
Pancho Vargas - Daniel Guzman
Avril Raines - Alli Mauzey
Jimmy Powers - Kevin Earley
Movie Production Personnel - Gary Cearlock, Wes Ramsey, Teresa Marie Sanchez, Brent Schindele, Joe Souza, Anne Fraser Thomas, Freyda Thomas
Studio Cops - Randy Brenner, Herschel Sparber

Photo by Michael Lamont


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Sharon Perlmutter






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