Having heard great things about the sold out production of ‘City of Angels’ at London’s Donmar Warehouse and browsed over its incredible cast list, I had to find myself a ticket! Luckily the Donmar run a scheme (Barclays Front Row) whereby a large chunk of the front row seats are held back for online release two weeks ahead of the performance. They cost £10 and are quite frankly a steal!! Demand is high so you have to be ready to battle your way through the ATG ticket site and refresh like mad, but thankfully I got seats for the exact performance I wanted! I’ll definitely be using the system again.
City of Angels
… is a very unique musical. The plot revolves around an author writing a Hollywood screenplay. The action jumps in and out of being ‘real life’ and in the film, with some of the film’s characters being reflections of their ‘real life’ counterparts … and being played by the same actual real life actors! Sound confusing? It is! But it’s what makes the show pretty funny too – especially when the author is able to rewind the live actors on stage and the actions of the characters outside of the film can affect their in film fate as a means of revenge.
To be honest, I’m not sure if I 100% followed what was going on. I’m unable to provide a decent summary of the film’s plot (it revolved around a private investigator finding someone’s missing daughter, contained some flashbacks and multiple deaths) but that wasn’t to the detriment of the show. I understood enough to get by and laugh along with the rest of the audience.
I’d like to say it was an awesome musical, but I found the songs to be a secondary to the book. It had a few fun numbers; with ‘You’re Nothing Without Me’ which saw the writer, Stine (played by Hadley Fraser), speaking to his in film reflection, Stone (a detective played by Tam Mutu), being my favourite; but I can’t really recall any more of the score two days later. It did, however, have some clever lyrics that, at the time, really made me laugh out loud!
In my mind, to be truly great, a musical needs to make you feel something – to carry a message so to speak. City of Angels doesn’t really do that apart from lightly brushing on the pains of being edited as a writer and creating work that really means something. Instead, it provides light-hearted entertainment – enjoyable while it lasts, but doesn’t raise any questions.
This Production of City of Angels
I’ve seen about half of this seventeen strong cast on stage before and none of them disappointed! Rosalie Craig was a particular standout as Gabby/Bobbi – Stine’s wife and Stone’s lover – but that doesn’t really need to be said, her vocals impress me in everything! It was also nice to see Samantha Barks (of I’d Do Anything/Les Mis Movie fame) on stage again, though her role was a lot smaller than I had anticipated.
The set was quite spectacular too. It was on two levels with stacks and stacks of books adorning the back ground of the upper level and stacks and stacks of movie reels adorning the bottom – naturally reflecting the two tone nature of the plot. The scenes were changed with a lot of furniture moving but it was all done within the style of the show (i.e. cast dressed as detectives or set moving within the scope of a scene). At times there were also projections portraying what Stine was typing on his typewriter, which helped somewhat simplify the complex plot.
My Verdict on City of Angels
Seeing shows at the Donmar is a wonderful experience; wherever you’re sat you’re incredibly close to the action (if you’re in the front row you’re practically sat at the actors’ feet!). I find it fascinating to watch everything close up and it’s great to hear the sound coming straight from an actors mouth as opposed to it being transported to the back of a 1000 seat theatre. At £10 a ticket, front row is a thrilling experience no matter what the show’s like.
Thankfully, City of Angels was an enjoyable experience. Not my favourite musical ever, but it was unique, stylistic and generally breathhe of fresh air. This fantastic cast could make anything worth seeing and they didn’t disappoint in their respective roles … grab a ticket if you can (it’s on till Feb 7th), I’m not sure you’ll see anything else like this for a while! I give City of Angles a rating of 3.5/5