SF Playhouse: City of Angels Review - Film Noir, Live and in 3D

City of Angels returns to San Francisco after a 25 year absence, thanks to the San Francisco Playhouse and its Artistic Director, Bill English. This Tony Award Winner for Best Musical concludes SF Playhouse’s 13th season on its main stage.

Private investigator Stone (Brandon Dahlquist) contemplates taking on his next tough case

Set in the 1940s in Los Angeles, this is a “play within a play,” or more accurately, a “movie within a play.” The “real” part tells the story of Stine, a writer trying to turn his book into a screenplay. The “reel” part is the film noir movie Stine is writing and often rewriting, starring Stone, a private eye and our hero. Stine and the real world are in full color towards the front of the stage, while Stone and the fictional world are in black and white towards the back of the stage, as we watch on a virtual silver screen. Most of the actors play two roles, one in each “world”, and sometimes their transitions from one to the other are quite clever.

Stine (Jeffrey Brian Adams) drafts a scene of his detective drama ‘City of Angels’ for the silver screen

This is a revival of a musical that opened on Broadway in 1989 and won six Tony Awards and was nominated for five more. The music is by Cy Coleman, composer of such musicals as Sweet Charity and The Will Rogers Follies, and popular hits such as Witchcraft and The Best is Yet to Come.

Bobbi (Caitlan Taylor) sings at a nightclub hoping to get “discovered"

The book is by Larry Gelbart, perhaps most famous for Tootsie and for turning the movie, M*A*S*H into a television series.

Donna (Monique Hafen) gives Stine (Jeffrey Brian Adams) some pointers on his script

Artistic Director Bill English is rightly proud of the production. Besides giving a pre-performance talk on stage, he was readily available in the lobby during intermission and after the bows, happily schmoozing with the audience, many of whom have been long-time subscribers to the Playhouse.

Stone (Brandon Dahlquist) is surprised by Mallory (Samantha Rose) in his bed

All in all, the play is an enjoyable way to experience a few hours of musical theatre. The dialog is humorous and witty, the parts are well cast, the orchestra did a fine job on the jazzy score, and the songs are classic Cy Coleman.

Alaura (Nanci Zoppi) seduces detective Stone (Brandon Dahlquist)

If this production is any indication, San Francisco Playhouse’s upcoming season is not to be missed. The 2016-17 season begins in September with a world premiere of Seared by Theresa Rebeck, followed by She Loves Me, The Christians, Noises Off, The Roommate, and La Cage Aux Folles.

The cast of ‘City of Angels’


Jeffrey Brian Adams                       STINE

Ken Brill                                       ANGEL CITY FOUR

Brandon Dahlquist                         STONE

Ryan Drummond                           BUDDY/IRWIN

William Giammona                        ANGEL CITY FOUR

John Paul Gonzalez                       JIMMY POWERS/PETER

Rudy Guerrero                              MUNOZ/PANCHO

Monique Hafen                             DONNA/OOLIE/ANGEL CITY FOUR

Samantha Rose Cardenas             MALLORY/AVRIL, MARGIE

Caitlan Taylor                               GABBY/BOBBI/ANGEL CITY FOUR

Nanci Zoppi                                  ALAURA/CARLA

Nicole Frydman                             FEMALE SWING

Ryan Mardesich                            MALE SWING


San Francisco Playhouse

450 Post Street (2nd Floor of the Kensington Park Hotel)

San Francisco, CA


Tickets: ($20 to $125)

San Francisco Playhouse website

(415) 677-9596



Tuesdays through Thursdays at 7pm, Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 3pm and 8pm, Sundays at 2pm. Now through September 17, 2016.


All photos are by Jessica Palopoli and used by permission.

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