Beck Center for the Arts
Runs through August 13th
City of Angels is a very unique musical comedy that offers a clever tribute to 1940’s film noir. The production is bolstered by exemplary work by the esteemed artistic team, which provides music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by David Zippel, and book by Larry Gelbart. The plot and storyline are quite complicated at it unravels, because it includes almost all of the conventions of film noir all rolled up into one. The plots of twists and turns within would make House of Cards look like Reading Rainbow. When Stine ( charming Jamie Koeth) embarks to faithfully adapt his novel into a screenplay, he discovers the difficulty of maintaining his artistic integrity against Hollywood movie moguls, particularly mogul Irwin S. Irving (played by exuberant Greg Violand). Each character in the life of Stine is mirrored by the film adaptation that is literally happening side by side on stage. Stine’s detective book hero is Stone (played with silver fox finesse by Rob Albrecht). As the line separating fantasy from reality is blurred, Stine must find a way to produce a happy ending, over characters that seem to take on a life of their own.
This cast is top-notch. Jamie Koeth plays Stine with wonderful character and vocal range. From a struggling playwright to a more confident story-teller, his arc is engaging and entertaining. Rob Albrecht as Stone is a master of suave and 40’s detective realness. His slick performance, and vocal power, brings the film noir essence to perfection. And when they both meet at the end of Act One, their duet will definitely inspire you and boost sales at concessions due to excitement. Greg Violand provides a fantastic obnoxious hot mess of greed and lust in delivering mogul Irwin S. Irving and Buddy.
(and the fact that Mr. Violand learned this role during tech week is remarkable).
Two other stand out performances can be found with Brian Altman as singer Jimmy Powers. Powers appears in both sides of the stage action, as he should, especially aided by the velvet voiced Altman. He creates so much charm and vocal schmaltz on stage you literally might need a lobster bib to keep yourself dry. Carlos Cruz handles the roles of Detective Munoz and Pancho Vargas with adept skill and energy to make these characters filled with life, instead of storyline fodder.
THE WOMEN! This production is filled with fabulous talented women. Leslie Andrews is on fire and I don’t want to put her out. Whether she is Gabby, Stine’s wife or Bobbi, Stone’s former girlfriend, she is bringing everything to the table. Brittni Shambaugh Addison needs three names to contain her vivacious talent. Her acting skills are incredibly refined and focused. Her vocals blend melodic joy and layered resonance both in Donna, Buddy’s secretary, and Oolie, Stone’s Girl Friday. Sonia Perez brings us some decadent diva realness and Susan Lucci perfection. Her delivery of one liners could protect us from any foreboding nuclear attack. As Carla, Buddy’s wife, or Alaura, Femme Fatale and Iron Lung Vanna White, she is fierce and fun. The beautiful Madeline Krucek completes this collection of Candle Party perfection. Her vocals are lush, her looks divine and her characters are well drawn and executed.
Throughout this journey is the Angel 4. Kind of like the Charlie’s Angels of the piece. Appearing to open the show and set the mood, and then saving scene changes from being boring and routine, to accented concert moments of vitality and blended vocal gold. The Angels are Robert Pierce, Erin Niebuhr, Brianna O’Boyle, and Steven Huynh.
As this production is filled with talent that any production team would probably want to throw themselves into the colored ball room of Chuckie Cheese to celebrate, the show itself has a journey all its own to overcome. It probably takes a while for the audience to understand what is actually going on. If you aren’t familiar with the film noir voiceovers and essence of what this brilliant musical is poking fun at, you wont get it until later in the show. For example, the opening of the show offers the fantastic vocal blend of the Angel 4, but the number is longer than it probably needs to be, and the choreography doesn’t come across as confident as it should. Maybe just focusing on the superior vocals might have been more effective. After that, the musical starts slowly rolling down the hill and gathers artistic and audience enthusiasm it goes. When the beginning of Act Two begins, the show is in full motion and connected with the audience, who is still fired up from the Act One finale. So in the end, it is probably a 50/50 chance that audience members will go out and tell people to see this show. I don’t know if it has that power on its own. For myself, I would recommend it because it is a unique production, that is hardly ever produced because it is that challenging. But the Beck and Spence took it on, and eventually won.
Director Scott Spence and his creative team have invented a fascinating design to bring this musical to life. As the show opens, we see the famous Hollywood sign split into three sections of stage. A clever addition to this iconic look, is that each section can be used with projections. This enables each separate scene to be enhanced with clever and visually exciting backdrops. And the final reveal, which I will not reveal, is a fabulous and triumphant ending scenario. So just like Oprah, “Everybody gets a Bravo!”. Set Design by Jordan Janota gets a Bravo, Projection Design by Adam Zeek gets a Bravo, and Lighting Design by Trad A (no period) Burns gets a Bravo!
Once again, the Musical Direction by Larry Goodpaster is luscious and inspiring. His first class assemblage of musicians provide a stunning musical backscape. Choreographer Martin Cespedes provides era perfect movement to enhance the 40’s atmosphere. Costume era realness/fierceness provided by Aimee Kluiber. Her costumes complimenting the woman with grand design and fit.
CSA – Kevin
July 7 – August 13
$12-$31 Reserved Seating(216) 521-2540
$12-$31 Reserved Seating(216) 521-2540
Order Tickets Online
Beck Center For The Arts
17801 Detroit Avenue
Lakewood, Ohio 44107