Thursday, 5 November 2015

City of Angels, Nov 5, 2015 ****

Music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by David Zippel, book by Larry Gelbart
By Life Like Company
Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne, until Nov 8, 2015
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Full review also published online in Herald Sun Arts, Mon Nov 6, 2015 & in print on Sun Nov 8. KH
 Chelsea Plumley, Amanda Harrison CREDIT BEN FON

Take a 1940s, hardboiled detective story in the style of film noir then toss in cheeky jazz tunes and you have a delicious recipe for the musical, City of Angels.

When Cy Coleman wrote the music, Larry Gelbart the book and David Zippel the lyrics, it’s no wonder this show won multiple Tony, Drama Desk and Olivier Awards after it premiered on Broadway in 1989.

Director, Martin Croft’s production for Life Like Company boasts a dream cast of Australian musical theatre talent and, despite having only 2½ weeks to stage it, the show is deftly directed, beautifully acted and sung.

In the technicolour, real world, novelist turned screenwriter, Stine (Anton Berezin), is adapting his popular, detective story into a movie script for the interfering but very successful Hollywood producer, Buddy Fidler (Troy Sussman).

In a parallel, black and white, fictional world, Stine’s character, Stone (Kane Alexander), a hapless private eye who speaks in glib witticisms and abrasive voiceovers, is employed by manipulative, seductive Alaura Kingsley (Anne Wood) to find her runaway stepdaughter, Mallory (Hannah Fredericksen).

The search all goes wrong for Stone when he crosses his client, her family and the cops but also for his creator, Stine, as he struggles to please his wife, Gabby (Chelsea Plumley), the bullying Fidler and also to meet the demands of his fictional alter ego, Stone.

Alexander has a touch of the Orson Welles in his assured performance as the jaded, lovelorn gumshoe, Stone, and Berezin’s powerful voice brings passion to Stine, the philandering, deceitful but talented writer.

Alexander and Berezin’s voices blend perfectly in their impassioned duet, You’re Nothing Without Me, and its clever reprise, I’m Nothing Without You, that they sing with Plumley.

Sussman is a riot as Fidler, the perfect parody of the greedy, self-interested movie producer that would sell his mother for a three-movie deal.

A highlight is the magnetic Amanda Harrison, with her rich, remarkable voice, singing You Can Always Count on Me in the duel roles of Oolie, the detective’s devoted secretary, and Stine’s saucy, real world lover, Donna. Magic!

As Bobbi the club singer, Plumley sings a sultry rendition of With Every Breath I Take, and her duet with Harrison, What You Don’t Know About Women, is sassy and audacious.

City of Angels stays witty and entertaining while taking a satisfying swipe at Hollywood artifice and avarice.

By Kate Herbert

 Kane Alexander, Anton Berezin CREDIT BEN FON
Directed by Martin Croft
Musical Direction by Kellie Dickerson

Cast includes:
Kane Alexander
Amanda Harrison
Anton Berezin
Chelsey Plumley
Troy Sussman
Rohan Browne
Anne Wood
 Amanda Harrison CREDIT BEN FON
 Kane Alexander, Amanda Harrison CREDIT BEN FON
 Anne Wood, Kane Alexander CREDIT BEN FON 

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