Monday, March 9, 2015

City of Angels

City of Angels has a fantastic score and great roles for women. The original Broadway production won Tony Awards for best musical, score and book. So why isn't it more frequently produced?

Some say the expense. Stine writes in his screenplay in a color studio while Stone investigates in a black and white film world. Both stories require lots of sets, costumes and characters. It's hard to scale this one down to ten actors and a piano.

Others say the book. Gelbert's libretto is deservedly praised for it's pace and humor. However Stone's mystery is hard to follow, relying on exposition dumps, and Stine's personal problems are hard to sympathize with. Hollywood paid you a fortune to turn your pulp novel into a pulp screenplay? You can't stop cheating on your sanctimonious wife? Gee that's tough.

Gelbert wrote a similarly complex book for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. It was peopled with cartoon characters but at the heart was Pseudolus the wily slave. In his "I want" song he tells the audience he longs to be free. That sets the stakes for the rest of the show. Stine sings  that he wants "lots of fun and pots of dough." Understandable but less than compelling.

There's more to Stine if you examine the wish fulfillment in his screenplay. The bully producer who dominates the Stine's world is quickly dispatched on screen. He writes his mistress as a spinster and his upstanding wife as a prostitute. Stone resists the advances of multiple women in ways Stine never could. If we ever got a major revisal I'd love to see all this pay off. Stine could stand to learn a more valuable lesson from Stone than he does in the final scene. Till then I'll settle for the songs.

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