City of Angels hits the stage

Rebecca Howard

Two musicals in one, a Hollywood comedy and detective drama, come to the stage of the Allen Bales Theatre tonight in “City of Angels.”

This suspenseful musical with a twist is filled with a flare of contemporary jazz styles, energy and comedy.

The Tony Award winning musical “City of Angels” was set in 1940s Hollywood and takes the audience into the mind of Los Angeles novelist Stine as he creates his screenplay. Stine’s screenplay invites suspense as its lead character, Detective Stone, gets into trouble when the socialite, Aluara Kingsley, enters his office.

Russell Stephens, a junior musical theatre major playing Stine, said the soundtrack to the musical piqued his interest when he first heard it.

“The soundtrack is very Broadway, jazz, swing, 1940s, scat and has very atypical vocal harmonies,” Stephens said.

Michael Luwoye, a junior musical theatre major playing Stone, the private detective, said his character brings a smart wit.

“The text from ‘City of Angels’ resembles the language used in noir films such as ‘Murder, My Sweet,’” Luwoye said. “The jokes are hidden and I always think of it as smart comedy.”

Luwoye, who performs tonight in his eighth show at the University, said the musical has been a challenge because of the plot. Every character, except Stone and Stine, play two or more roles in the show making the play very complex.

While the plot is intricate, Luwoye said he has enjoyed learning from his role.

“It’s been an awesome challenge because there hasn’t been a point where I can say ‘I got this,’” Luwoye said. “I’m always finding something new. There is always some facet that I’m unfamiliar with. Since you’re never sitting down, you get to have more fun and you can add to each rehearsal.”

Karen Baker, the Masters of Fine Arts third-year graduate director, continues to be impressed with the actors as they bring fresh energy to the stage each night. Baker, who chose the musical, thought it would challenge her as a director as well as the actors. She encourages actors to bring their own unique persona to each character.

“The actors are doing a good job learning how to handle the set and I’ve been very impressed during the rehearsal process,” Baker said. “It’s a joy everyday when they bring something that surprises me.”

The lighting and costume designers display the “film world” in black and white and the “real world” in color, Luwoye said. The show also features choreography by senior musical theatre major Marianne McConnell. McConnell, who is also playing Oolie and Donna, said “City of Angels” was a fulfilling and exciting first show to choreograph.

Stephens said he enjoys performing in Allen Bales because of the liveliness in the theatre.

“There is a different kind of energy because you have an audience on all three sides, so you have three times the energy and the energy of the show depends on the energy of the audience,” Stephens said.


The musical opens Monday, Nov. 7 and plays through Saturday, Nov. 12, with shows starting at 7:30 p.m. On Sunday, Nov. 13, there will be another performance starting at 2 p.m. Student tickets are $12, faculty and seniors are $15 and adults are $18. Tickets can be purchased at the box office in Rowand-Johnson Hall or online at