* * * * (4 Stars)
Film Noir Goes Stage Glam
This musical is a complicated, sexy, interesting, clever poduction. Easy to understand why it is a Tony Award winner, but be forewarned: Read the playbill before the show begins. Otherwise, you may have a little difficulty understanding the plots interplay with stage reality and fictional action.
The music isn’t exactly something you will sing to yourself later, but the show is written by three highly acclaimed writers, and the lyrics are simply amazing. The musical number “The Tennis Song” alone is worth the price of admission. (At $20 a seat, still a bargain!)
The trio of equity actors — Sarah Gay, Jamie Goodwin, David Long — is superb, and most of the students do a fine job as well. Jacob Trussell is a spectacular standout as the movie mogul. Lots of physical and vocal energy.
The Mary Moody Northen Theatre on the St. Edward’s U. campus is in the round. Spaces are used with expert precision as minimalist set pieces are moved quickly in and out between scenes. The musical accompaniment, under the baton of Mike McKelvey, Dir. of Musical Theatre, and the excellent light, round out the eye-pleasing scenes and sets. So, check out the bios of the lighting, choreography and musical team members, who added real professional polish to this highly pleasing production.
**** (Four Stars)
“Stage Noir Musical” Delivers “in Spades” at MMNT
Well, not gumshoe “Sam Spade,” but rather private eye “Stone” (David M. Long) and his creator “Stine,” (Jamie Goodwin). But just as satisfying to the eye and the ear.
If you like 1940s detective novels, film noir, great musicals plus humor and a bit of mind-bending entertainment, you’ll love this show. If you don’t, you’ll still admire this production because of the unusual staging — in the square/round with three elevated acting platforms and a fourth with a 10-piece band — the dead-on period costumes, right down to the men’s sock garters, superb hair styles and make-up, singing and choreography.
Frankly, I was “blown away” by the fact that the three equity actors (Sarah Gay is the rich vamp”) and student cast could pull this off in that space!
Of course, a few other characters are “blown away” as well, in amusing style as the harried novelist battles hard-charging movie producer Buddy Fidler (Jacob Trussell) in moving his fictional P.I. to the silver screen.
Trussell, making his senior year swan song, is truly a young thespian to watch. He’s over-the-top in his smarmy role, as well as his equally oily alternate character, movie mogul S. Irving. I can’t wait to see him on professional stages.
I do not recommend this show for children, say under 14, since it has profanity, scantily clad women, seduction, sex, murder, morgues, gunshots and . . . well all the things I like in a good murder mystery yarn. And then there is Director Michael McKelvey, who also conducts the orchestra which capably rendered CY Coleman’s jazz-inspired music.
When mixing stage veterans and student actors, an uneven performance can result. Such is the case here. Strong voices like Goodwin (great as the police officer in “Urine Town” at the Zach), Gay and Long seem to overpower younger talent. But Kimberly Gates in dual roles as secretary to Stine and to Fidler, and Jon Wayne Martin as characters Pancho Vargas/Lt. Munoz, are not among them. They shined in their roles.
“City of Angels” is based on the book by Larry Gelbart of “M*A*S*H” fame, a writer who knows how to mix mayhem and merriment on screens small and large, and who likely has battled producers and Hollywood dealmakers to maintain the subtleties and integrity intended in his storytelling.
This is not just another “cute campus production.” Rather, it is a surprisingly strong show with lots of values to enjoy. But you’d better get a good read on the program before the lights go down are you’ll struggle to keep up with the pacing and the quick changes between the fictional storyline and the musical’s storyline. Prepare to be impressed.