City of Angels
Associate COnductor for the West COast Production
For Cy Coleman’s masterpiece CITY OF ANGELS, I served as Associate Conductor of the West Coast production, a close recreation of the Broadway production, in which I had previously been a keyboardist.
James Naughton and Randy Graff recreated their Tony-Award-winning, Drama-Desk-Award-winning roles, under Michael Blakemore's brilliant direction. Walter Painter recreated his clever, understated and under-rated musical staging, and the greatest prize for me was assisting the Manhattan Transfer’s brilliant arranger Yaron Gershovsky as he built a new Angel City 4 (the Quartet).
For a year and a half, I was custodian of the quartet, and though I generally don’t love company warm-ups, I loved every minute of the 8-show-a-week warm-ups with those four superior, endlessly conscientious talents, at the fifteen-minute mark before every performance.
The soprano of the quartet was Monica Mancini, whose father Henry took me into a corner once at his house and asked me if, as a Broadway guy, I thought he should accept an offer to create a Broadway version of VICTOR/VICTORIA. I told him I thought he should go for it! (I think he would have anyway, with or without my advice…) Sadly, he did not live to oversee the finished product.
The Los Angeles CITY OF ANGELS played five months instead of the projected year. I attribute this partly to the venue itself: LA's Shubert Theatre (since razed) was an impersonal barn, a distant, cold environment for an intricate Swiss watch like CITY OF ANGELS. The show’s #1 asset, its big band, sounded half as effective as it did in NY’s Virginia Theatre. In addition, I’ve found that LA audiences are not the most excitable in terms of mainstream Broadway musical theatre.
CITY OF ANGELS is what I call a two-year hit. It’s got some high-brow about it that can’t run for thousands of performances (any more). It’s quite sophisticated, requires concentration from the audience, and ideally a familiarity with the genres referred to in both Larry Gelbart’s fiendishly ingenious script and Cy Coleman and David Zippel’s score. A non-verbal tourist flypaper like CATS it ain’t. The National Tour fared well all over the country, partly thanks to Barry Williams, of “Brady Bunch” fame, who coincidentally had just published his book. But the economies of the National Tour worked against it, depriving the nation’s audiences of the full effect of the original’s endlessly ingenious, unfolding sets and its grab-you-by-the-throat sensational band.
In the intervening years, I was Musical Director for a very good production of CITY OF ANGELS at the North Shore Music Theatre, with the road tour orchestration.
CITY OF ANGELS is the #1 show that people mention when asked what should be revived today – it’s been 30 years, far longer than the timing of most revivals (20 years or less). I hear rumors. Shhh. You didn’t hear that from me.
Clockwise: James Naughton and Randy Graff; Leslie Denniston and Randy Graff
Lauren Mitchell; Jeffrey Rockwell, Joe Lala, and James Naughton