hits right notes as dead bodies pile up
Saturday, July 23, 2005
By Nancy Van Valkenburg
This review is based on a preview performance.
3-for-3 at Utah Musical Theatre. Every production of the 2005
summer season has been a winner.
that includes "Wicked City Blues" in its world
premiere as a fully staged production.
"Zorro," the unfortunate choice for last season's
new work, "Wicked City Blues" has legs. See it now,
prices, or wait a few years and see it at
City Blues," with book, music and lyrics by Norman
Thalheimer and story by Cornell Christianson, opens as a live
radio show of the 1940s. The special-effects man stands by
with shoes to make footstep sounds, rice to make rain, an
ironing board for creaking hinges, and a variety of horns for,
well, it's probably not polite to say.
quartet of singers croons sponsors' advertisements and the
opening to a radio murder/detective drama, "Wicked City
Blues." But a bit into the drama, those same lead actors
come out of the studio to portray the story, purposely
overacted in film-noir style.
men wear fedoras and trench coats or smoking jackets. The
women wear shoulder-padded, embellished, drape-y dresses. Oh,
yeah, and the women are called "dolls" or
Morrison, the hard-boiled detective, is up to his eyeballs in
trouble. His client is a dame he can't quite trust. Dead
bodies keep showing up. And Mickey himself might not survive
various points, the story is simply read by actors on the
studio set, then the action moves to costumed characters and
minimal sets at center stage. Sometimes, actors stand to the
side, watching the action, even walking in and out of the
scene they were previously watching.
a lot easier to follow than it sounds.
Anderson was flawless as Charlotte Blane. Sample lyric:
"She's only a dame in lipstick and heels, and a dress
that reveals all the things it conceals."
voice modulated in the same dramatic style as Judy Garland's
in "The Wizard of Oz."
alumni Justin Ivie was good as John Blane,
missing husband, and riotous as sadistic club owner Lars
Vanderbeck. After one of his solos, you'll never think of the
phrase "Crazy About You" the same way again.
Lambert was convincing both as the straight-up Lieutenant
McNaulty and as not-too-bright psycho hit man Harry the
Zipper. Sample lyric about the Zipper: "You're not a dumb
gorilla, you're the real magilla."
was solid as Morrison, but once in a while, you may find
yourself wishing he would turn it up a notch or two to match
the overacting of those around him.
music was fun and lively, with lyrics that were funny, savvy,
sly and packed with pop references. The choreography, by Brian
Paul Mendoza, was worthy of a Broadway stage and kept taking
clever, unexpected turns.
the sides and top of the stage was a rounded, polished
wood-look frame that made the stage look like a 1940s
table-top radio, with a design similar to a life-size radio
that appeared on stage several times. Jo Winarski was
responsible for the ingenious set, which reinforced the idea
that the action was both inside and outside of the radio.
by Kaoime Mallory, were authentic-looking and elegant.
preview night, actors were still perfecting their timing and
pauses for laugh lines, which is what preview night is for.
Even before opening night, this two-hour, 10-minute show was
well worth watching.
your best to put "Zorro" behind you. "Wicked
City Blues" deserves a big audience, and it seems likely
that it will be drawing audiences elsewhere for years to come.