Hayes Theatre brings us another 5-star musical hit with City of Angels. It’s a big bold sexy production with lots of style, lots of laughs, and an incredible collection of wonderful performers and musicians that deliver this complex score with real conviction.
Composer Cy Coleman has had a prolific career creating some of the best music ever to hit the stage and most will have heard songs from his Tony award winning shows including Sweet Charity, Barnum, On the 20th Century, Seesaw, and The Will Rogers Follies. City of Angels is another Tony winner and arguably his most lush and detailed work, as it integrates the jazz styling of a Classic 1940’s Hollywood detective story.
Following the quintessential style of Raymond Chandler mysteries, Stine, a bookish writer of detective stories, struggles to adapt his successful crime novel into a workable screenplay amid the self absorbed and grasping world of Hollywood. Meanwhile the character and meal ticket he creates, a hardboiled private eye named Stone, fights for survival in a city full of shady opportunists and dangerous criminals. Both worlds play out side by side, one in full colour, one in black and white, and reality blurs with fiction as real life makes its way into the screenplay being created. Bear in mind it’s an homage to a less aware time and the deliberately cliché characters reflect the norms of the day and may not be palatable to everyone. But the tongue in cheek delivery lets the audience in on the joke, and we are encouraged to laugh at the outrageous stereotyping.
It's impeccably staged, and Director/Choreographer Sam Hooper chooses to differentiate the two worlds in a different way to the usual split stage. He is obviously well acquainted with the piece from his program notes, and it shows. The integrated staging works perfectly, and the character doubling only accentuates the story – never confuses it. It’s really intelligent and clever work. And the wonderful lighting design by James Wallis plays an integral part in clarifying the two worlds.
The performers are all uniformly impressive. Glenn Hill and Aaron Tsindos lead the company as Stine and Stone and deliver powerful vocal performances, and great characterisations. Hill’s version of ‘Funny’ is a tour de force, and their duet in the hit song ‘Nothing without You’ is everything you could want.
But there are no weak links here. It’s a skilled company with Mia Morrissey, Penny McNamee, Chantel Cofie and Shannen Alyce Quan navigating the pitfalls of their dated archetypal feminine tropes with real humour, heart, and panache – and voices like liquid gold. Paul Hanlon makes an absolute meal of producer Buddy Fiddler, and we love to hate his manipulative and controlling antics. The Angel Four deliver their jazzy vocals and cameos impeccably, and while all four are delightful, Noah Janssen finds some of the most delicious comedic moments throughout.
The music is definitely the star of this production, and the exceedingly accomplished band handles the exciting score with apparent ease. It’s nice to see the musicians integrated into the set instead of hidden in the back room for a change, and it’s appropriate for the big band sound they manage to produce with only a handful of musicians. Kudos to Music Directors Abi McCunn and Damon Wade for what they have achieved.
This show keeps the Hayes theatre right on top of the best music theatre venues in Sydney. The opening night was delayed by some pesky technical difficulties but was well worth the wait. This is a rarely performed work, so despite its rather lengthy run-time, you should catch it while you have the chance. And it’s a double bonus to see it brought to life with such style.
Joshua Robson Productions in association with Hayes Theatre Company presents
City of Angels
music Cy Coleman | lyrics David Zippel | book Larry Gelbart
Director Sam Hooper
Venue: Hayes Theatre | 19 Greenknowe Avenue, Elizabeth Bay NSW
Dates: until 23 July 2023
Tickets: $85 – $75