Tuesday, February 23, 2016

reviews - CITY OF ANGELS - Theater Works

Ian Christiansen and Matt Zimmerer
Photo by Wade Moran / Moran Imaging
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through March 6th.

"The 1989 musical City of Angels won six Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Book and Score, and ran for more than two years on Broadway, yet it is a show that doesn't seem to be produced that often. Fortunately, Theater Works in Peoria is presenting the musical, featuring the creative team from their hit production of Follies from last season, and this production is as well conceived and thought out as the show itself. Featuring a sensational jazz score, City of Angels moves between the beautiful, yet slightly seedy, technicolor world of 1940s Hollywood, where New York novelist Stine has been hired to adapt his book into a film, and the black and white world of the film he is writing. While the disillusioned Stine writes, rewrites, and deals with the temptations and distractions of Hollywood while his wife is back in New York, his screenplay comes to life in front of us in the form of a film noir mystery led by private-eye Stone. City of Angels is witty, glamorous, full of suspense, and completely original....director Phillip Fazio has a handle on making sure we always know which world we are in. With 40 scene changes...and the fact that all of the actors, except the two leads, play a part in each story, there could be disastrous results. Fazio succeeds in several ways.....Cy Coleman's sumptuous music and David Zippel's intricate and clever lyrics are masterfully played by a smoking band led by music director Steve Hilderbrand. ...As Stone and Stine, Matt Zimmerer and Ian Christiansen are well cast. Zimmerer has the look and demeanor of the hard-boiled, beaten, and jaded detective. While he effectively portrays Stone as a private eye right out of numerous 1940s films, he also displays the right emotional connection to how he got to be the person he is, which we see play out in flashbacks. Christiansen is equally good in showing how Stine is simply trying to retain the artistic intent of his novel in the film adaptation while at the same time juggling his attempt to please his wife, his girlfriend, and his producer. ...Intelligent and well thought out musicals as well conceived as City of Angels come along very rarely. While it might prove a little challenging to less inclined theatergoers, due to the overlapping and complex storylines, Theater Works' production is a stellar achievement, with a superb cast, clever design elements, and clear and crisp direction."
 -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

"Peoria’s Theater Works often tackles challenging shows that haven’t been produced locally. ...Now the company crafts another hit with “City of Angels,” a jazzy gangster and detective musical with a stellar Cy Coleman score.  It explores Hollywood in the late 1940s and how Film Noir movie’s blurred the period’s harsh realities....directed by Phillip Fazio...To present a successful “City of Angels” production, several ingredients are mandated.  All are present in this production.  First, a sharply defined, quickly paced staging is necessary so the story evolves as a natural explosion.  Next, the multitude of plot locations must swirl in and out as fiction writer Stine begins his novel about a rough and tumble, and lovelorn detective, Stone....In addition to Fazio’s zippy and engaging staging, a fine cast of solid singers with witty and exaggerated acting create interesting and engaging characters.  Headed by Ian Christiansen’s stalwart and feet-on-the-ground Stine and Matt Zimmerer’s charming Stone, both actors sing well.  Several excellent supporting players craft nimbly funny yet believably inviting people including madcap Hector Coris’ double take on a rich movie producer who dabbles in shady areas, stylish Sarah Wolter as the mysterious woman, and belter comedienne Alanna Kalbfleisch as the novelist’s secretary both in reality and in his novel....A large set piece at the rear of the stage serves as a good location for the wonderfully brassy orchestra conducted nimbly by Steve Hilderbrand. “City of Angels” is a fast-paced and engaging detective story with an energetic and poised cast of nimble farceurs who fashion a breezy and enjoyable production." --Chris Curcio, KBAQ (click here to read the complete review)

"Theater Works in Peoria has another hit in the sassy, sexy "City of Angels" musical comedy it opened last night. ...Groaning wit and painful puns abounded throughout the evening's lightning lyrics by David Zippel and the Larry Gelbart dialogue. The storyline and most cast members are double, being that the audience jumps back and forth between the life of a struggling novelist/screenplay writer, Stine (Ian Christianson), and his fictional gumshoe detective, Stone (Matt Zimmerer). ...Musical Director Steve Hilderbrand's smoking 14-piece onstage jazz combo that just kept getting hotter....The set, costumes and lighting also had a well-executed dual plan. All the fun film noir scenes were in black, white and grey tones, while Stine's interactions with the Hollywood folks were in splashy technicolor. ...The mastermind behind the jailbreak production was Director Philip Fazio, who...helped the production tiptoe between some fine theatrical lines....It became clear early on that Stone (Zimmerer) was comprised of not just private eye stereotypes, but of all that Stine believes and hopes he himself is. Zimmerer's blundering bravado carried the evening, and most the supporting cast rose to the performance bar he set.... the artsy meat and societal commentary were being wrung dry from Stine's novel by unscrupulous, crass Hollywood movie producer Buddy Fidler (Hector Coris). Buddy, under the best worst toupee known to man...Coris slickly slithered through messy metaphors while slashing Stine's novel to shreds. ...In a show filled with excellent performances a couple more should be singled out. Alanna Kalbfleisch doubled as detective agency assistant Oolie and movie producer secretary Donna. Her best of many moments was Oolie's Act II solo "You Can Always Count on Me." With lyrics like 'I go for the riff-raff whose treating me so-so. When I can play the second fiddle I'm a virtuoso,' she was a bittersweet kind of funny that persisted. In addition, Rob Allocca as Munoz handled most of the show's scant serious lines with as much savvy skill as he did a gleeful, slap-stick number "All You Have to do is Wait" when the band leader cued the castanets. "City of Angels" at Peoria's Theater Works. It would be a crime to miss it." -Jennifer Haaland, Examiner.com (click here to read the complete review)

"...This 1989 Broadway hit works every cliché in the pulp-fiction toolbox, starting with the disgraced cop turned private dick and the femme fatale he can’t resist. Despite some snappy one-liners, though, it’s not exactly a spoof. ...definitely has pizzazz, from the hot brass band onstage to the stellar singing cast featuring Ian Christiansen as the writer, Stine; Matt Zimmerer as his hard-bitten alter ego, Stone; ...Nonetheless, the ideas here seem pretty familiar, and that includes the art-vs.-commerce commentary of the frame story, which doesn’t deliver enough dramatic punch to compete with the cartoonish noir of Stine’s script. Somehow, “City of Angels” adds up to less than the sum of its sexy parts."  - Kerry Lengel, Arizona Republic (click here to read the complete review)

 -Herbert Paine, Broadway World (click here to read the complete review)

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