Review by Jody Miller
A Mesmerising Blend of Mystery and Melody: City of Angels at The Hayes Theatre Sydney
Presented by Joshua Robson Productions in association with Hayes Theatre Co
City of Angels, the critically acclaimed musical, has found a new home at The Hayes Theatre in Sydney, and it’s an absolute triumph. With its intoxicating blend of film noir, catchy tunes, and a stellar cast, this production transports audiences to a world where reality and fiction intertwine, leaving them spellbound from beginning to end.
In the late 1940s, Stine, a bookish writer of detective stories, struggled to adapt his crime novel into a workable screenplay. As Stine tries to maintain some integrity in the backstabbing world of Hollywood, his protagonist, a hardboiled private eye named Stone, fights for survival in a city full of criminals and opportunists. In a clever design choice, the stories are told on a split stage: Stine’s world is in full colour, while Stone’s appears in black and white.
With wit, humour and a fantastic Cy Coleman score, City of Angels captures the snappy dialogue of a Raymond Chandler novel and the glitzy showmanship of classic Hollywood; the result is a crowd-pleasing musical unlike any other.
The Hayes Theatre’s intimate setting proves to be the perfect backdrop for this complex and multi-layered story. As the lights dimmed and the band struck its first chord, the audience was immediately transported to the glitz and glamour of 1940s Los Angeles. Simon Greer’s set design enhanced the scene with its sleek black-and-white aesthetic, cleverly mirroring the contrasting worlds of the real and reel life depicted in the show.
One of the standout elements of ‘City of Angels’ is its captivating score played by a hot jazz band, nestled into the set, tightly music directed by Abi McCunn and Damon Wade. The jazzy melodies and witty lyrics bring the narrative to life, evoking the essence of the film noir genre while infusing it with a modern flair. From the upbeat and catchy “You Can Always Count on Me” to the thoughtful “Funny,” the music effortlessly carries the audience through the intricate plot.
The cast of ‘City of Angels’ is an ensemble of exceptional talent with a notable mention to the tightly knit quartet, ‘Angel City Four’, played by Doron Chester, Sian Crowe, Noah Janssen and Katelin Koprivec. Each performer fully embodies their characters, bringing them to life with nuance and charisma, easily transitioning between the noir and naturalism of the show with impeccable harmonies and movement.
The roles of Stine, the struggling writer played by Glenn Hill, and Stone, the hard-boiled detective in his screenplay, played by Aaron Tsindos, are skillfully portrayed while capturing the distinct personalities of each character. Both actors brought unique qualities to the performance being standout performers who captivate with their demanding stage presence.
The supporting cast is equally impressive, with impressive performances from the sultry femme fatale, Penny McNamee, the vivacious secretary, Shannes Alyce Quan, and the relentless Hollywood producer, Paul Hanlon. The chemistry between the actors is electric, adding depth and dimension to the intricate relationships within the story. Chantel Cofie plays a frivolous ‘Avril/Mallorie’ who presented outstanding vocals which melted through the audience like butter.
The direction by Sam Hooper, assisted by Julia Robertson, brings a fresh perspective to this classic musical. The staging is innovative and dynamic, effectively utilising the limited space of The Hayes Theatre to create visually stunning scenes. The clever integration of James Wallis’s phenomenal lighting design and David Groggs sound design, seamlessly bridges the gap between reality and the fictional world of Stine’s screenplay.
City of Angels at The Hayes Theatre is a captivating musical experience that will transport you to the Golden Age of Hollywood. With its mesmerising blend of mystery, melody, and exceptional performances, it’s a production that leaves a lasting impression. Whether you’re a fan of the film noir genre or simply appreciate masterful storytelling, this production is not to be missed.
The City Of Angels is playing at the Hayes Theatre with performances from 23 June – 23 July 2023
Starring Madeleine Betts, Doron Chester, Chantel Cofie, Sian Crowe, Paul Hanlon, Glenn Hill, Noah Janssen, Katelin Koprivec, Penny McNamee, Mia Morrissey, Conor Neylon, Shannen Alyce Quan, Ethan Rutledge, Marcus Rivera, Aaron Tsindos and Jessica White