Monday, September 19, 2016

Angel's Flight (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

Roughly at the corner of Santa Monica and Vine, a bar/night club called the Three Clubs stands as it has for years.  Within one can find a small theatre, a venue used for shows that don't require a lot of space.  The seats are comfy, the decor very nice, the feel a bit nostalgic for a Hollywood of days gone by.

Which pretty much makes it perfect for Angel's Flight, a one hour musical about a gumshoe, a dame, a criminal conspiracy and a mystery.

Sounds something like the kind of spoof we've seen dozens of times, which is fair in one sense but grossly inaccurate in most others.  Angel's Flight does the one thing that makes a parody really work best--the story essentially works on its own, as an example of the genre no less!  Yeah, some of the details are silly (you cannot overdose on "reefers" for example) for effect, but frankly the plot alone might have belonged to a classic noir film!  On top of that this joint production by Cherry Poppins and Cyanide Theatre does the other thing that proves vital for the best theatre--everyone gives it 110%

The plot centers around Duff MacKagan (Schoen Hodges) a tarnished private eye looking for one more score so he can afford to leave tinseltown and try to live with himself far from the glamor and grime.  One last case.  A missing person, naturally a dame.  Meanwhile crooked cops hint they want to frame Duff for the recent murder of one of their own--an honest cop in Internal Affairs.

Yeah, it all ties together, but what really accomplishes that is not so much the plot as the feel--and part of the feel, the atmosphere, the mise-en-scene are the musical numbers, from the very opening in which the cast is introduced to the finale--an ironic punctuation of what we've just seen.  All of it with at least a hint (sometimes way more than that) of burlesque.  Our ladies, led by Jane (Heath Butler) and Grace (Sarah Haworth) don't so much enter as slink onstage.  When not slinking, they strut and when not doing either they pose--yet as per the 110% comment above, all this done full on, with purpose, with character and emotion put into every lifted eyebrow.  It makes for an intensely entertaining show.

Likewise Big Daddy (Michael Onofri) makes for a wonderfully sleazy coward, the front man for the real Boss, while Murphy (Danny Fetter) and Wallace (Bobby Watson) create a splendid pair of gloatingly crude crooked detectives with LAPD.  Hardly anybody gets a huge amount of time on stage, but all the characters are alive even the one shots like the barber Bette (Kelly Stevenson) or dancers like those played by Brin Hamblin, Sarah Wines and Shannon Glasgow have that "larger than life" facet that makes it all work.  They believe a couple of chairs is a car, so we do.

All throughout we the audience were having a blast! The songs! The dancing!  The sultry dames and soiled souls complete with the oddly sympathetic cynical private dick--all feeling real in the world of the show!  Which makes all the difference between stereotype and icon.

The fish makes for a nice little bit of the surreal.  And foreshadowing.  I'm not going to explain that.  Go see the show.  Really.  You will be very glad you did.

Meanwhile let me praise the skill, energy and stage presence of everyone else in the cast--Madeliene Bentz, Ben Blonigan, Alli Miller et al. 

 Angel's Flight plays on Wednesday nights at 8:30pm until September 28, 2016 at the Three Clubs Cocktail Lounge, 1123 Vine Street, Los Angeles CA 90038.  As of this writing that means only two more performances in the current run. 

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