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Theatre / City of Angels

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"L.A., truth to tell, is not much different than a pretty girl with the clap."
For other works of the same name, go here.

City of Angels is a musical comedy tribute to Film Noir, with music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by David Zippel, and book by Larry Gelbart. It was first produced on Broadway in 1989 to positive reviews and quite a few Tony Awards.

The plot follows a 1940's noir novelist named Stine, who is being conscripted to write a film adaptation of his best-selling private eye novel starring his alter-ego Detective Stone. As we see Stone facing the usual Film Noir perils in the noir side of the story, in the real world side Stine is facing marital issues and Executive Meddling. The different worlds are color-coded, with all of the sets and costumes for the Film Within A Show being black and white, while the real-world sets and costumes are normally colored.

This work contains examples of:

  • And You Were There: Except for the actors playing Stone and Stine, every principal actor play two characters—one real, one in Stine's story. Stone and Stine are played by separate actors, of course, because they need to interact.
  • Black Widow: Having promoted herself from nurse to wife, Alaura killed her prior husband, an ailing coal magnate, via steady build-up of poison. His children agreed not to press charges provided she give up her share of the estate. Now, with Luther Kingsley, she intends to do a better job by also killing off his kids and covering her tracks by pinning it all on Stone, a man the LAPD won't hesitate to arrest.
  • The Chanteuse: Bobbi, especially in "With Every Breath I Take".
  • Crowd Song: "Double Talk" is reprised by the party guests, also counts as The Villain Sucks Song.
  • Dark Reprise: Double Talk, originally a short song in the black and white world about how Stone distrusts Alaura, gets one of these in the color world when Buddy uses it to proclaim how much he hates writers.
  • Distant Duet: "What You Don't Know About Women" is sung by Stine's wife Gabby and Stone's secretary Oolie, who are not only far away from each other, but occupy completely different worlds.
  • Double Entendre: All over the place, but the "The Tennis Song" in particular consists of almost nothing but these.
  • Double-Meaning Title: The title refers to Los Angeles, the setting for both the "real" story and the "reel" story; it's the title of Stine's detective novel that he's adapting; and it refers to the bevy of women in each story (some less angelic than others).
  • The Eleven O'Clock Number: "Funny".
  • Et Tu, Brute?: Just as Stine is reaching the end of his rope over Buddy's meddling and Gabby's cold shoulder, he finds out Donna, Buddy's secretary whom he trusted to keep him sane and with whom he was having an affair, has been re-writing his script, too. He's not grateful for her "help" in the least.
  • Executive Meddling: An in-universe example and major plot point, with Buddy making numerous changes to Stine's script.
  • Fall Guy: Dr. Mandril's murder gets pinned on Stone, exactly as Alaura planned.
  • Femme Fatale: Alaura Kingsley and, to a lesser extent, Mallory Kingsley.
  • Hurricane of Puns: Bookwriter Gelbart and lyricist Zippel have a field day with both overwrought dime-novel prose and Hollywood "know-how."
    • Buddy is just about a one-man hurricane:
    "Flashbacks are a thing of the past."
    "Nobody gets a hole-in-one their first time at bat."
    "Let's face it: I've been through DeMille."
  • "I Am" Song: "You Can Always Count On Me". Also a Bad Girl Song.
  • Irrelevant Act Opener:"Stay With Me".
  • "I Want" Song: Stine's "Double Talk".
  • Jerkass: Buddy Fidler to the very core.
  • Large Ham: Movie producer Buddy Fidler lends himself to this very much, especially as played by René Auberjonois, the role's originator.
  • Massive Multiplayer Ensemble Number: "Everybody's Gotta Be Somewhere".
  • No Inner Fourth Wall: Not the 'real' fourth wall, but the in-universe one between Stine and Stone is broken during the number "You're Nothing Without Me" as character and author get into a heated argument over the changes Stine is making. (And any fiction writer can tell you that this sort of thing is Truth in Television... well, maybe not the singing.) In the finale, the inner fourth wall is obliterated when Stone grabs the typewriter to change the ending for Stine.
  • Private Detective: Detective Stone, an ex-cop with a weakness for dames, fits the trope to a tee.
  • Proscenium Reveal: It opens in the Show Within a Show, and gets most of the way through the expository scene before revealing Stine at his typewriter pressing the backspace key, causing the action to rewind.
  • Really Gets Around: Mallory Kingsley/Avril Raines.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Gabby's "It Needs Work," ripping husband Stine a new one in the writerly language that she knows will stick.
  • Show Within a Show: The musical focuses on an in-universe novel called City of Angels which is being adapted into a movie.
  • Solo Duet: Sort of. "You're Nothing Without Me" is a duet between Stine and his far-cooler Author Avatar Stone.
  • "The Villain Sucks" Song: Double Talk, a song that is constantly reprised throughout the show, is turned into one of these as the party guests belittle movie producer Buddy Fidler behind his back.
  • Triumphant Reprise: "I'm Nothing Without You".
  • Vehicular Sabotage: In the Film Noir within the show, Alaura claims to have done away with Peter by tampering with the brakes of his van. Peter lives, however.
  • Villain Song:
    • "The Buddy System" is an odd subversion, as the audience doesn't quite realize Buddy's the real antagonist yet, and the number, while somewhat threatening in it's way, is a fun, light-hearted song.
    • Buddy's versions of Double Talk could also classify as these.