Tuesday, May 11, 2010

An Ambitious Musical For The Gallery Players

If you missed the 1989 Broadway run of Tony-winning musical City of Angels, you can catch it at the Gallery Players in Brooklyn through May 23, where it's being revived for the first time in New York. The 43-year-old theater company should be applauded for taking on such an ambitious musical, even if the results are sometimes mixed.

City of Angels (book by Larry Gelbart, music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by David Zippel) takes place in 1940s Hollywood. Screenwriter Stine (Jared Troilo) is writing a movie about a detective named Stone (Danny Rothman) and struggles to keep his integrity while meeting the demands of his overbearing producer/director (Greg Horton). Scenes from the screenplay are interwoven with the real world sequences, differentiated by black and white costumes and sets. Here is where the limits of a small theater company are apparent--the scene changes weren't seamless and the production values weren't as dazzling as I imagine they might have been on Broadway.

The show cleverly spoofs the film noir genre, but sometimes the comedy was too broad for my liking. The characters Donna and Oolie (secretaries to Stine and Stone, both played by Blair Alexis Brown) add some humanity to the show in the moving "You Can Always Count On Me," in which the two woman lament being taken advantage of.

The score is pleasant, if not particularly memorable. A highlight is "You're Nothing Without Me," a power struggle between Stine and Stone. It's the only moment when the two worlds interact, and it's very smartly done.

The capable cast acquit themselves well to the multi-tasking that is required in playing multiple roles, but there were no real standouts.

In February, I had a chance to see Caroline or Change at The Gallery Players, which I loved. Although City of Angels isn't as strong, it's definitely worth the trip to Park Slope.

Photo credit: Bella Muccari

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