“I’m one of a long line of good girls”
I was no real fan of the Donmar’s recent production of City of Angels, Josie Rourke’s direction ending up rather po-faced with all its noirish elements played deadly seriously, hardly the introduction one wants to a musical that many had acclaimed highly to me. But turning to the 1993 Original London Cast Recording of Cy Coleman, David Zippel and Larry Gelbart’s show, their quite different take on the material made me reappraise the show completely.
One might not be able to tell exactly how Michael Blakemore’s direction played out from listening to this CD but the sprightliness of Billy Byers’ orchestrations and the lighter touch of Richard Balcombe’s musical direction makes the whole thing seem like a much more fun affair. City of Angels is a pastiche after all, or an homage for the more earnestly minded amongst us, and played with a more warm-hearted and less self-conscious approach, it connected much more with me.
Whether Haydn Gwynne’s seductive Oolie purring her way through ‘You Can Always Count On Me’, Fiona Hendley’s Bobbi slinkily working her way through torch song ‘With Every Breath I Take’ or Henry Goodman’s Buddy wrapping his movie-producing manipulation in great charisma in ‘The Buddy System’, the music just jumps into life here in a way I just don’t remember the Donmar ever achieving (I do wish I could go back and revisit it to see if it was just the way I was feeling that night…).
This production’s trump card is Roger Allam though as fictional detective Stone who, despite some interesting but lovable accent work in his constant Marlowe-esque narration, connects beautifully with whomever he’s singing with – ‘Double Talk’ and ‘Tennis Song’ with Susannah Fellows, the Angel City Four on ‘Ev’rybody’s Gotta Be Somewhere’ or Martin Smith’s novelist Stine on the stone-cold classic Act One closer ‘You’re Nothing Without Me’, he’s the epitome of Roger Allamish wonderfulness, it all just works so well with him. Now to pester the Donmar for a belated transfer so I can revisit my original opinions…