Theatre Mirror Reviews - "City of Angels"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

| MARQUEE | CURTAIN | USHER | INTERMISSION |



"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


Reviews of Current Productions


entire contents copyright 1997 by Larry Stark


"City of Angels"

Book by Larry Gelbart
Music by Cy Coleman
Lyrics by David Zippel

Directed by John Bartlett
Musical Direction by Howard Boles

Set and Lighting Design by D Schweppe
Costumes Design by Sue Spencer
Choreography by Sharon Bisantz
Stage Manager Eileen Montaperto

The Musicians

CONDUCTOR
Howard Boles
PIANO
Wayne Ward
SYNTHESIZER
Richard Shore
BASS
Rob Simring
DRUMS
Bob Stoloff
REEDS
David Daquil, Karen Dickson, Carol Kycia, Jeff Leonard, John Porter, Greg Ridlington, David Sass, Louis Toth, Jerry Vejmola
TRUMPETS
Tom Duprey, Harlan Feinstein, Roy Groth, Jeff Hoefler, Bill Jenkins, Robert John, Mark Sanchez
TROMBONE
Matt Tap

Pancho Vargas/Manny Munoz...................................Robert Jacobs
Stone..............................................................................Jerry Bizantz
Stine.............................................................Robert Lawlor Mattson
Mallory/Avril Raines..............................................Jennifer Shotkin
Buddy/ Irwin S. Irving.......................................Robert Zawistowski
Oolie/Donna..............................................................Cheryl Salatino
Gabby/Bobbi......................................................................Jane Eyler
Luther Kingsley/Werner Krieger...................................Jack Sweet
Peter Kingsley/Gerald Pierce.......................................Bob Sandler
Margie.................................................................Barbara M. Thomas
Bootsie...........................................................................Shelley Ross
Jimmy Powers.............................................................Brad Peloquin
Sonny.........................................................................Rick McKenzie
Big Six.........................................................................Stephen Russo
Del DaCosta...............................................................Michael WEbb
Mahoney.......................................................................Clay Robeson
Alura/Carla............................................................Pamela Schweppe
Coroner D'Amato.......................................................Michael Bailit
Henry..........................................................................Stephen Russo
Pasco...............................................................................Bill Jenkins
Margaret...............................................................Karen McEneaney
Commissioner Gaines..............................................Richard White
Key Grip.......................................................................Glyn Standen
The Angel City Four
Bob DeVivo, Kristin Hughes, Alson Lemoine, Richard White


At the back of the Vokes Theatre, occasionally shadowy behind a scrim, sit 24 musicians who cook. [ NOTE: Actually, there are 12. See letter below. ]There are reeds and reeds springing up like weeds and seven trumpets (Hi Harlan!), all reading new charts, but that huge sound ensemble swings as smoothly as an early-bop big band that has been touring together for years. Conductor Howard Boles must take great pains to keep this massive music machine from blowing occasionally weak voices in the 27-member cast of "City of Angels" right out the back of the house. Luckily the big numbers --- Jerry Bisantz and Robert Lawlor Mattson doing "You're Nothing without Me", Cheryl Salatino belting "You Can Always Count on Me" and Robert Jacobs and pals with "All You Have to Do Is Wait" --- all done down front, all groove on that big sound. Elsewhere however it is obvious that the Vokes Players have bitten off more show than they can handle.

The subject of Larry Gelbart's book for "City of Angels" is late '40s Hollywood where a Raymond Chandler like-a-look tries to turn a great mystery into acceptible shlock with the help of a producer-director who occasionally doubts he really is God --- but that's just the tip of a very complicated and many-layered plot that has characters in the plot doubling as characters in scenes from the movie, re-writes changing bits of dialog and even whole scenes that get re-run, and eventually the detective arguing with his own creator. The writer's agent/wife deplores his knuckling under to de-fanging re-writes, and resents actresses who keep hoping they can buy bigger parts with sex. And even including six actors playing twelve major roles, the 27 member cast play a total of 51 named characters in thirty separate scenes that flip from reality to movie in an eye-blink. Stage Manager Eileen Montaperto and her run-crew of four should get medals for success above and beyond the possible.

Given the sprawling mass of fragile details needing attention, it's no wonder Director John Barrett lost two falls out of three. Not all his actor could sing, not all his singers could act, some could do both; of two or three major conflicts, none emerged as the show's through-line; and some scenes had to be under-rehearsed. Given the problems, it's amazing anything got done right.

Jerry Bisantz did manage the Bogartly brash quips of the movie shamus; when the plot lets him emerge from a coccoon of nullity Robert Lawlor Mattson 's writer comes alive; Jennifer Shotkin stands out as a starlet on the make; Robert Jacobs overpowers his few short scenes as a vindictive police heavy; Robert Zawistowski as the producer "helping" with script re-writes is insidiously oblivious to his arrogance; and Barbara M. Thomas and Shelley Ross turn walk-ons as a madame and her merchandise into a memorable moment. But minuses begin to overtake plusses about here. Doubtless many things will improve, since actors never stop working opening night, but there are a lot of loose ends needing attention.

The Vokes Players have always had the guts to try big things on a stage that was built originally to house Beatrice Herford's one-woman shows. This is one of the rare times they have met their match.

Love,
===Anon.

From: HowardSB@aol.com
Date: Sun, 2 Nov 1997 09:25:40 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Vokes City of Angels Review

Larry,
Thanks for taking the time to see and review our show. As always, I appreciate your comments, be they thumbs up or thumbs down, as they act as a litmus test for me for future theatrical endeavors. And as you pointed out, the production doesn't stop growing on opening night!
I just wanted to clear up one factual point you mentioned in your review. Although it may have sounded like an army of musicians, there are only ever 12 musicians playing at any given performance, not 24 (4 in the rhythm section, 4 brass, and 4 reeds). The reason there are so many names listed in the program is that musicians often cannot commit to playing every performance of a 4-week run of a show due to previously existing commitments at the time I hired them, so they will "split the book" with one or more other musicians. Sometimes, in fact, a player will "sub in" for only a single performance. So that's why so many names were listed. I suppose this could have been made clearer in the program.

Anyway, I'm continually working on the balance problem between cast and orchestra. In fact, as of last night's performance, I've cut some musicians out of certain musical numbers and repositioned the orchestra to face the stage left wall rather than facing the audience directly, just so as not to drown out the lyrics in places where I've gotten feedback that they were getting lost. This is an ongoing problem that I'm faced with, and I hope to achieve the right balance as soon as possible. Of course, I'd someday love to work in a theatre that could afford body mics, but the economics of community theater tend to preclude that option. Thanks again for your comments and your support.
- Howard Boles, Music Director, "City of Angels"

LARRY STARK REPLIES:
Actually, Howard, I stayed after the curtain-calls Friday watching you and the gang go through a driving ensemble passage, and you could have been Herman's Herd for my money! But I admit I wasn't counting faces. I was really looking for Harlan Feinstein, and now I know why I didn't see him.
Some shows really ought to be reviewed on opening and on closing night, because of the growth during performances.
Love,
===Anon.

"City of Angels" (till 22 November)
VOKES PLAYERS
Beatrice Hereford's Vokes Theatre, WAYLAND
1(508)358-4034
Check their website

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

|
MARQUEE | CURTAIN | USHER | INTERMISSION |