Live review: MUSE’s City of Angels

Young blood

BY SYLVIE WOODS

 

City of Angels
The Sydney University Music Theatre Ensemble

Seymour Centre, 6 September

What’d you miss?

  • A musical challenge of epic proportions
  • Charm, moves, and drama
  • A ridiculous, evil laugh

 

These days, they say you’ve got to be the triple threat. If you can’t act, sing and move, your musical theatre career prospects are further away than a mite on a kite. At least, that’s what I’ve heard.

City Of Angels takes these alleged requirements a step further for would-be performers. Just when we thought the business of musicals required near impossible all-roundedness, this one demands Marilyn Monroe charm, Fred Astaire moves, Nat King Cole vocals, Sir Ian Murray McKellen dramatic ability and King’s College choirboy musicianship from all. The likelihood of MUSE – or any young, amateur company – finding a cast of quadruple-threat persons to take on this epically challenging, dialogue-dense musical is on par with the likelihood of my reading Fifty Shades Of Grey and learning a new word.

City of Angels is known for its huge cast, debuting in 1989 on Broadway and promptly winning a host of awards. Not dissimilar to Mel Brooks’ The Producers, the plot twists and weaves, jumps back and forth, and cuts in and out as a ‘show within a show’ tend to do. The music is renowned for its infectiousness; it certainly had me humming on the way out.

Awkwardly, this was a huge, go-big-or-go-home, meaty musical in a little theatre. There was mid-song squinting and some performers broke character slightly in their efforts to coordinate. Actors took on roles that really required an actor-singer and, in turn, performers who were evidently particularly good musicians struggled with the exaggerated physical theatre that is central to the show. But many shone against the odds. Phoebe Clark’s unlucky-in-love, victim-of-philandery role was delivered with her usual animation, vocal excellence and stamina. Jeremy Kindl and Doug Emery of the Angel City Four were vivacious and in their element in small roles, and delivered wonderful comedic moments throughout with great gesture and expression.

Abbey Lenton stood out as the eccentric, sultry gangster, amusing the audience with an appropriately ridiculous, evil laugh at one point and demonstrating expert awareness of the style. Michael Martis played the spry Detective Munoz with sparkle, engaging us on all levels and drawing in the large laughs.

MUSE’s City Of Angels delivered some fantastic moments. It promises laughs and earworms. There were some impressive characters and overall the night proved enjoyable.

 


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