Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

October 21, 2011

City Of Angels

Goodspeed, East Haddam, CT
through November 27, 2011
by Jarice Hanson

Billed as a sexy Hollywood Whodunit, "City of Angels" mixes 1940's film noir with contemporary theatre conventions including scene projection, a slow-motion fight scene appropriate for America's Funniest Home Videos, and skull hand-puppets all as homage to tired gumshoes who can't resist a pretty dame. In this production, director Darko Tresnjak has mounted a complicated show with remarkable technical proficiency.

You can't miss with a script by Larry Gelbart, who writes lines like, "Only the floor kept her legs from going on forever," and music by Cy Coleman, who crafted some of the best duets of his career in for this show, What sets this musical apart from others are the witty lyrics by David Zippel. The stock characters -- the Brylcreemed private eye, the femme fatal with the rich, aged husband, and the nubile step-daughter may seem cliche, but the show has many fresh twists.

About twenty minutes into Act I, the audience realizes that all of the characters are in the mind of a writer, hired by a movie studio to pen a screenplay, only to have his work changed by the hilarious studio executive, played by Jay Russell. The action revolves around the back-and-forth world of the movie studio and the life of the script writer, played by D.B. Bonds. There is not a weak character in the cast; and Bonds, Lauri Wells, and Nancy Anderson have wonderful voices and get some of the best tunes.

Some members of the production team warrant a special shout-out;  Michael O'Flaherty's music direction shines, and David P. Gordon's scenic design, enhanced by Shawn Boyle's projections, make this production a visual treat. The show may have been a bit fresher when it premiered on Broadway in 1989 and today's mash-ups and parodies take a bit of the kick out of the script, but the "City of Angels" is smart, entertaining, and this production is top-notch.