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Greater London
posted/updated: 25 Sep 2011 -
City of Angels
Music: Cy Coleman, Lyrics: David Zippel, Book: Larry Gelbart. Director: Patrick Harrison, Musical Director: Joe Bunker, Choreographer: Jessica Green.
society/company: Cygnet Players (directory)
performance date: 24 Sep 2011
venue: Putney Arts Theatre
reviewer/s: Cathryn Short (Sardines review)

Set in Hollywood in the 1940s, City of Angels follows an author as he adapts his bestselling private detective novel into a screenplay, whilst simultaneously following the action within the movie. In order to differentiate between the two plots, the set was divided in two by a painted film strip with the novelist’s world in colour and the screen action in black and white. This is a very simple device but necessary to avoid confusion as the script dictates that many of the principal characters in both storylines are played by the same actors.
The show opened with a well-crafted movement sequence setting the tone for the production and using chorus and dancers to good effect. However exciting this was, in my opinion, its inclusion confused rather than enhanced the plot for audience members not already familiar with the show. During this prologue the Angel City Four singers (Helen Burgess-Bartlett, Jenny Kent, Nicola Roscoe and Toby Thorp) handled the complex harmonies and scat-style singing admirably and continued to do so for the rest of the show.

Oolie/Donna (Flo Nash) gave a tremendously crafted performance and created a nice variation between her two characters, as did Annie Hayes as alluring femme fatale Alaura Kingsley and director’s wife Carla.

Stone (Olly Medlicott) and Bobbi/Gabby (Liz Sweetland) worked well together although the emotional depth of their duet in Act II was adversely affected by the decision to have another ‘customer’ awkwardly drape himself over Bobbi.

Alan Reiss performed the role of Stine with vocal accuracy and good characterisation Munoz (Peter O’Donovan) delivered his song with passion and a strong sense of enjoyment which helped lift the action as the energy of the show seemed to increase after this song and the duet between Stone and Stine.

The costumes were very effective, which was a huge task particularly in light of having to have some in both colour schemes. The sound was not always set at an appropriate level, the band seemed to drown out some of the vocal performances and the voice overs were occasionally inaudible though this may have been down to diction rather than volume.

Over all, the Cygnet Players should be congratulated for this extremely good production and their strong cast, both principals and ensemble. This is the second time I have seen a production by the Cygnet Players and I have thoroughly enjoyed their treatment of a musical that I love. I look forward to their take on Guys and Dolls next year.

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