Let me start by telling you how I began my Sunday, which should give you a glance in to my world. Scroll down a bit if you'd rather just jump into my review of the Davis Musical Theatre Company’s production of City of Angels.
I started my Sunday at Uncle Vito’s, having a beer and eating hot wings with a friend of mine while watching football. After a few hours, I said goodbye and headed for the theatre.
By no means am I defined by wings, beer and football, but it's true that I have spent many Sundays enjoying all three. I love movies and music and am very much an appreciator of art, but the truth is I’ve only seen a few musicals in my entire life.
This is the prism through which I watched City of Angels, which is to say: Theatre is not a world I intimately know. Still, here are my thoughts!
City of Angels “weaves together two storylines, one in color, about an author struggling to get his book turned into a screenplay and the second, produced in black and white, as a fictional film.”
The fictional film portion of the musical is a live-action representation of a screenplay being written by the author in the color portion of the play. The story jumps between the two. The Davis Musical Theatre Company actors who play characters in the real world (color) also play characters in the “reel” world (black and white). The worlds are differentiated through wardrobe and set design.
It’s a smart play that’s very fun to watch unfold. The story invites you into the head of Stine (played by Tony Ruiz), who is adapting his novel into a screenplay. His piece of art is being routinely dumbed down and mangled by his Hollywood producer, Buddy Fidler (Patrick Stratton). We, the audience, get to watch this editing happen in real time.
I’ve always been blown away by theatre actors (because it’s so far beyond anything I’m capable of), but watching City of Angels really gave me an appreciation for everything else that goes into putting on a live production -- from direction to set design to music to lighting.
This kind of story could easily tie an audience up in confusing knots, especially since the actors all play two roles. But that’s not a problem at all here. It rolls along smoothly, allowing you to enjoy the show rather than spend your time trying to follow along.
Two particularly enjoyable characters were Mallory/Avril (played by Rebecca Wilson), and Carla/Alaura (played by Danielle Debow). Both are bursting with personality for different, but equally compelling reasons. Wilson's character is dingy and very funny, while Debow's is dramatic and filled with confidence.
Screenplay author Stine’s interaction with director Fidler and his secretary Donna (Caitland Martin) were some of my favorite scenes – probably because those interactions had a direct impact on the reshaping of the parallel screenplay portion of the story.
As a person who enjoys writing and storytelling myself, it was fun to watch Stine’s piece of fiction get mangled by the producer. It also offered a nice glimpse into a common criticism of Hollywood – where art goes to die, at least according to critics of the blockbuster-hit industry.
Here's a bit more information about City of Angels as well as some links to professional reviews of the musical, which won several Tony awards when it ran on Broadway in the late '80s.
As an admitted newcomer to theatrical production review writing… I strongly recommend checking out City of Angels. That means you should consider checking it out even if it’s not something you’d normally do (on a Sunday, after watching football and downing some chicken wings).
It's a really fun musical, and it's exciting to know we have this kind of talent in Davis.
The show will be playing at the Davis Musical Theatre Company Performing Arts Center from now until October 7. Friday and Saturday performances begin at 8:15 p.m. and Sunday performances begin at 2:15 p.m. Tickets are $18 general, $16 students and seniors, and $14 for groups of 10 or more.