Regional Reviews: Los Angeles
City of Angels
Also see Sharon's review of Jay Johnson: The Two and Only!
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.
Photo by Michael Lamont