THEATRE / Bright lights, big city: As City of Angels opens at the Prince of Wales, Rhoda Koenig casts an eye
The private-eye movie is being written by Stine, whose biggest problem in adapting his novel is getting his page past producer-director Buddy Fidler, the tyrant of the lot, who owns every starlet's mouth and every writer's conscience. Stine's wife, Gabby, hates Hollywood, not just for corrupting her husband's work but for tempting him with the proximity of such long-legged beauties as Donna, Buddy's lovelorn secretary. As Stine battles with Buddy and Gabby, and his own despair and lust, his struggles are reflected in the script of his movie, whose characters have real-life counterparts. But the influence doesn't go in only one direction: the real characters start speaking the movie characters' lines (both parallel parts are played by the same actors); Stone, rebelling against Buddy's corny revisions, urges Stine to be a tough guy like him.
In an excellent cast, Roger Allam stands out as the intense, unflappable Stone, remarking matter-of-factly of his client that 'only the floor kept her legs from going on forever', and singing without removing his cigarette. Haydn Gwynne is hilariously plaintive, bemoaning her status as the perpetual other woman, whose beau 'can't introduce the girl he's with / There's lots of smirking motel clerks who call me 'Mrs Smith' '. Like the studio, however, the evening is dominated by Henry Goodman's Buddy, for whom the phrase 'bumptious megalomaniac' is not a tautology.
Cy Coleman's music is certainly atmospheric - when did you last hear a musical begin with a minor chord? But its pastiche of contemporary jazz, swing, and Latin rhythms is atmospheric in another sense - so insubstantial it dissipates as you're hearing it. Nor is dance a feature of a show whose wisecracking characters stretch credibility by singing. And, though Gelbart's book is unremittingly clever, the moral problem it poses is a phoney one (hey, it's a detective story, not Faust), and its ending uses irony to camouflage faulty construction. It may seem ungrateful, in this dismal period for musicals, to point it out, but, for all its virtues, City of Angels lacks the sentiment and exultation that, ideally, is produced in the theatre when words meet music. As another show's lyricist said: 'Oh, it's fine to be a genius, of course / But keep that old horse before the cart / First, you gotta have heart.'
There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turningTV
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'music
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 iOS 8 apps and features: eight iPhone settings you need to look at after you install the update
- 2 Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
- 3 'F*ck it, I quit': TV reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
- 4 Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
- 5 Hitler’s former food taster reveals the horrors of the Wolf’s Lair
Cilla, episode 2, ITV, review: Sheridan Smith continues to shine as the young singer
Downton Abbey series 5, episode 1, ITV, review: There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning
Foo Fighters: Live 2015 tour dates announced for Sonic Highways
Free U2 album: How the most generous giveaway in music history turned PR disaster
Top Gear to launch in France after Jeremy Clarkson banned from driving on roads
Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God