City of Angels is a deliciously smokey 1940’s exploration of film noir brought to life onstage. Beenleigh Theatre Group’s production tackles this gritty, jazz fuelled show with gusto and it is a wonderful night at the theatre.
With sturdy direction, and an inspired set and show design by Steven Days the cast dances through the complicated plot and multiple character arcs easily. With a stunning lighting design that is pure genius, wonderful projection work, and very convincing noir voice over work (Tammy Sarah Linde) the workings of a very complicated show are easily handled. Days’ direction was slick and clean, and combined with the work of Stage Manager Chloe Dunn and her team the pace of the show never slackens.
With a great Cy Coleman score, the orchestra played through the show with flair and, led by Musical Director Geoff Secomb, set a high musical benchmark for the production. The cast largely lived up to the task of the difficult vocal score, with some slight pitch problems coming from the Quartet and a few instances of cast getting out of time with the band. Overall though, the Coleman score was wonderfully served. Choreography by Jacquie Cullen was a tribute to the adage less is more, and the small dance ensemble always lifted the energy of their scenes with sharp, intelligent choreography.
Stine, played convincingly by Clay English, an author turned screen writer who wishes he was a better version of himself. English’s charming and bumbly narcissist hit all the right notes through the night, and his work with his alter ego Stone was a treat.
Stone, a gritty gumshoe noir detective played by Phillip Fitzjohn, was the highlight of the entire show. Sassy, worn down, and dryly delivered Fitzjohn gave us a classic private eye with a past, revelling in each drag of the cigarette and each calm aside to the audience. In a play within a play, and with fourth walls within fourth walls Fitzjohn was entirely in his element.
What would a noir movie be without a complicated leading cast of dames to flesh it out and give it allure? Della Days as the perpetual assistant Oolie / Donna gave a sassy, capable, lustful turn throughout the show. Danika Saal was entirely convincing as fallen starlet Bobbi, and embattled wife Gabbi Stine, her vocals were a hit throughout the night.
Cunning and fierce, playing the manipulative wife both in the “real” world of the play and the “movie” world Jeanne Marshall as Alaura Kingsley / Carla Fidler was dynamite, giving us a wonderfully balanced femme fatale that was so iconic it could have come from a 1940’s B grade detective flick.
Rounding out the dynamic ensemble cast, Ian Johnson playing overbearing producer Buddy Fidler and his alter Irwin S Irving, and Lachlan Clark as the often rewritten Lt. Munoz. Both had a great energy and played their respective roles to the hilt.
Honourable mentions must be given to Travis Holmes who played the rarely seen but definitely heard singer Jimmy Powers. He powered through his numbers, giving a wonderful crooners touch to the reprise of “Stay With Me.” Grace Clarke played the cunning Mallory Kingsley and the vapid Avril Raines with charm and although rarely on stage, always made her presence felt. Nod of the night though, has to go to the Swing section, James Davidson, Stephen Morris, and Jake Walters who played a myriad of characters throughout the show and were a crucial element in the success of the night.
City of Angels is a rarely seen gem of a show, and it is well worth the trip out to the charming Crete Street Theatre to check it out. Season runs until July 8th 2017.