City of Angels
Music by: Cy Coleman
Lyrics by: David Zippel
Distributed by: Masterworks Broadway
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
In 1989, Cy Coleman and David Zippel witnessed the debut of their new musical, City of Angels. Their goal was to blend detective noir with the 1940s movie industry and come up with a musical comedy. The opening narrative of City of Angels sets the tone for the musical as the narrator (in true Naked City style) tells the audience that there are over three million people in the city of Los Angeles, each hiding something from someone else. Then he proceeds to liken Los Angeles to a pretty woman…with the Clap.
If you have never seen or read anything about the musical, the Original Broadway Cast Recording of City of Angels can be pretty confusing unless you pay close attention. The story is basically about a writer named Stine (Gregg Edelman) who is attempting to adapt his detective novel into a movie screenplay. He soon learns that Hollywood is unforgiving in more ways than one - his script is being butchered by Hollywood mogul Buddy Fidler (Rene Auberjonoi), his marriage is falling apart thanks to an affair with the actress chosen for the lead female role in the film, and all the while, fantasy is becoming blurred with reality as Stine’s fictional detective, Stone (James Naughton), has begun to take on a life of his own.
The musical switches from fantasy to reality quite often and one has to listen very closely to figure out when the scene has changed. Often times the two combine. However, if you listen closely, you can figure out what is going on by the time you reach the song You’re Nothing Without Me. In the meantime, enjoy the great jazz and swing music while laughing at the sexual innuendo while discussing a match of tennis in The Tennis Song: “…I bet you like to play rough / I like to work up a sweat / And you just can’t get enough / I’m good for more than one set…”, and marvel at the sexy, sultry music and lyrics of Lost and Found. Women will nod in agreement at the lyrics of What You Don’t Know About Women while folks in the corporate world agree with the lyrics of You Gotta Look Out for Yourself.
The first time I attempted to listen to the Original Broadway Cast Recording of City of Angels, I had to stop it midway. My mind wasn’t completely on the soundtrack and I was missing the point. Listening to it the second time, I discovered I could now understand the plot and all it entailed. Once I could figure that out, I found the soundtrack to be enjoyable, but I can honestly say that this hasn’t been one of the best musical comedies I have ever listened to. Yes, I chuckled a bit, but I think that City of Angels suffers a bit as a stand alone album. It needs the visuals for the audience to get the full effect.