'City of Angels' Highly Recommended
When it was announced that Marriott Lincolnshire would present “City of Angels” as part of their 2014/2015 season, I was concerned. While this musical was a Tony Award winner, it is seldom done, and to do it in-the-round! Impossible! Well, surprise, surprise! Under the skillful direction of Nick Bowling, who keeps showing us that his talents are far more diversified than Chicago theater audiences could have imagined, not only is this a highly recommended show, it is one that is fitting for seniors as well! I say this because, I was unavailable on the opening night performance (three openings that night) and by going today, at a 4:30 performance surrounded by a flood of seniors, very few did not not respond to the comic touches of the book by Larry Gelbart (“Mash”) and the music (Cy Coleman) and lyrics (David Zippel), and I saw very few audience members asleep.
“City Of Angels” s a unique musical. No one knows any of the music! There is nothing to hum! In fact, there is nothing to remember at all about the music. The musical score is written in contemporary Jazz and be-bop styles, but the music in the show is IN the show to propel the story and allow the show to be classified as a “musical”. The story is about the transformation of a best selling detective thriller novel into a movie during the seductive days of the 1940’s Hollywood (“The City Of Angels”).. The story is presented in both Black and White ( the film portion) and color, the author and Hollywood story, which is very hard to do in an arena or in-the-round venue. Marriott, with its very clever technical staff managed to pull it off.
This is in fact two stories that parallel during the 2 1/2 hours (with one intermission) musical tale. We meet New York writer, Stine (played to perfection by Rod Thomas, who like a fine wine, improves with age) who has written stories about private eye Stone (a wonderful interpretation by Kevin Early), his alter-ego, but under the control of Producer/Director Buddy Fidler (an incredible character played by the always reliable Gene Weygandt) nothing ever stays the same. We have a wealthy young wife, who hires the Private Eye to find her step-daughter and as this sub-plot evolves we learn far more about the actors who play the roles and the characters that are written by Stine.There is an amazing ending to act one where the two men sing “You’re Nothing Without Me” as each realizes that they have become one. The same song ends the show and adds Gabby (Ms Smith shows off her terrific range). This is not a normal musical, but a story that has music to propel the action, of which there is a great deal.
This is a very contrived story with lots of little sub-plots, so it is very important to stay in to the story at the very onset. If you snooze, you lose! And I do not believe you can ever get caught up. The cast they have assembled for this wonderful spoof of the movies of the 1940’s is amazing. Just look at the list: in addition to the wonderful main characters, Thomas, Early and Weygandt (who also plays another role) there are the following, each playing at least one other role and many more: The very sexy Erin McGrath as the young Mallory Kingsly, the always delicious Summer Naomi Smart as her step-mother, the incredible Danni Smith in two vital roles, the astounding Meghan Murphy ( I love you Meghan), Brian Bohr, Dara cameron, Devin DeSantis, Elizabeth Lively, Michael Mahler, David Lively (who proves that even a small character role can be important to a production), Peter Sipla, Gabriel Ruiz, Lorenzo Rush Jr., Kyle Sherman, Zoe Nadal, Jerrod Zimmerman, Cassie Slater and Jason Richards – great job kids!
In addition to the wonderful direction that Bowling took the lead on, the choreography by Tommy Rapley was divine and the musical direction by Dr. Ryan T. Nelson, as always, superb. In-The-Round limits the scenic design but Thomas M. Ryan is the master at Marriott and makes what little he does do, a lot. The lighting (Jesse Klug) and sound (Robert E. Gilmartin) add to the audiences’ full enjoyment of the production and as always the costumes by Nanay Missimi and her crew are out of a dream. Sally Weiss who handles the props truly deserves her own Jeff award for the countless items that must be in specific places at specific times, and to think, on some days twice!
This is a show that is not done often, and it is understandable, but when Andy Hite and his staff decided to add this one to their season, they did so knowing that they had the right ingredients to make this a production to beat all other regional theater productions. It does just that!