Super College Play in San Jose...
So, I hopped on a plane and flew to San Jose and caught San Jose State University's production of City of Angels. Whoah! You're thinking, this ain't Broadway, it's just some college production, right? We all remember our college days and those "so-so" productions. I'm tellin' you, it wasn't Broadway, but it came damn close!
The five time Tony Award winning musical with music by Cy Coleman (The Life) and lyrics by David Zippel was given a first class treatment by this energetic and gifted collegiate cast. I thought I was in for an amateur afternoon when I noticed a few orchestra members arriving one minute before curtain, obviously rushing from classes. However, to my surprise, this group of seventeen musicians were in fine form under the baton of Barbara Day Turner. Barbara also conducts San Jose Opera and American Musical Theatre of San Jose, to name a few.
This spoof of the private eye films of the 1940's profiles Stine (Corey Rickrode), a writer of detective fiction, adapting his novel about the detective Stone (Coby Bell) into a screenplay. The lyrics are clever and Larry Gelbart's (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum) book is a riot.
The production is directed and choreographed by Janie Scott. Janie brings to this show years of Broadway experience having played Wendy, opposite the amazing Sandy Duncan, in Peter Pan. Later she was in, and assistant choreographed, the Sondheim/Prince/Furth production of Merrily We Roll Along. You also saw her in the original national and international tours of A Chorus Line and the Los Angeles cast of Cats. Janie's direction is taut and choreography impressive. Getting a college group to dance like this, including the floor work, must have been a challenge. It paid off, for sure.
All of this is performed by a gifted ensemble of actors, many of whom possess excellent range and delivery. Coby Bell was fabulous, never going overboard with a character that would be easy to do more than is neccessary. Coby's early save of a falling door proved his mastery of improv and live theatre. "What You Don't Know About Women," performed to perfection by Izetta Fang (Gabby) and Jennifer Fagundes (Oolie) was a favorite of mine. Luckily, we're getting Elizabeth Earnheart (Mallory) to New York in a few weeks, where she belongs. Elizabeth is on her way to something very big. Jesus Reyes (Munoz) brought the first act to a rousing finish with "All You Have to Do Is Wait." The comic timing and Scott's clever choreography, combined, were right on the mark. Act two allowed Jennifer Fagundes to tear the house down with "You Can Always Count on Me."
It's a large cast with many other very good performances like that of Julie Bryant, Corey Rickrode, Daxfurth Houston and Patrick Klein playing the leads. The "Angel City 4" harmonized beautifully reminding me of the "Manhattan Transfer." And, last but not least, Mark Bakalor turned in a fine comic turn as the very funny Nephew and also displayed some fine dancing skills. You all know Mark from the Stephen Sondheim Stage. As you know, Mark is also the designer of Talkin' Broadway.
The set changes in act two seemed a little slow, but that can be forgiven because this is a "heavy" show with thirty-seven scenes, twenty-one in act one and sixteen in act two. There were so many changes done on a huge turntable that each time it spun an entirely new set appeared. I enjoyed a humorous comment a cast member mentioned to me, after the show, "We like to call this show City of Furniture." Obviously, the university spent some money on the sets and costumes... it showed.
It was well worth the plane ride to get my Broadway fix and I urge all of you to support your local college or university theatre departments. While it may not be as good as San Jose, you just never know when you will see a star of tomorrow!
For ticket information, call (408) 924-4555.
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