CITY OF ANGELS AT THE DONMAR WAREHOUSE
Book by Larry Gilbart // Music and Lyrics by Cy Coleman and David Zippel respectively
This clever and engaging story follows a writer, Stine (Hadley Fraser), as he attempts to write his book into a 1940’s film noir. The story splits between Stine and his problems with his producer, wife and creative impulse and the plot of his book. The audience gets to watch those characters come to life in a clever split stage atmosphere where one half is in black and white film noir whilst the other half is in the colour of Stine’s present.
Despite its 251 seat arena, the size of this production is not impacted. Using a split, two tiered stage to really keep the audience engaged with the multiple worlds being played out in front of them.
The embracing of both the colour and vibrancy of Stines’ world and the black and white elegance of his characters becomes clear in one particular number ‘You’re nothing without me’ whereby Stine and one of his characters Stone (Tam Mutu), in an ingenious juxtaposition, engage with each other in an argument. They fight over their similarities with Stine pointing out that Stone is just a character from his imagination and nothing more whilst Stone argues that Stine wrote him because he’s who Stine wants to be but will never achieve that due a decision he makes within the story to abide by his producers radical (and awful) changes to his book. They use the split between dark and light on the stage to fight each other for power in the scene.
Despite outstanding performances all round by this stellar cast, personally two actors stood out for me. Playing two roles a mirror of each other, Stine and Stone were captivating on stage.
Hadley Fraser, Stine, has a powerhouse voice that filled the room and then with a charismatic and sarcastic wit that you makes you fall in love with a character with, at times, dubious morals. Hadley portrays creative passion and a man battling his own personal problems with a perfect ease and brilliance.
Myself and Hadley taking a photo “Selfie style” in his own words
The second standout performance for me was Tam Mutus’ performance as Stone, Stine’s main character in his story. I’ve had previous experience of Mutus’ killer voice and stage presence so I was in no way disappointed or surprised with the way he commands the stage. Mutu holds the audience in the palm of his hand, using sex appeal and wit to draw them into both the story of the book he’s playing out and towards the end, his connection with his writer.
Myself and Tam
Overall this show is pure magic filled with sex, wit and drama and well worth a trip to see. It’s closing in three weeks (7th February) and quite frankly I’m probably going to be going back.
By Rachael Millmoor