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Deseret Morning News, Sunday, July 17, 2005

'Wicked City Blues' to close Utah Musical Theatre season

'It's a spoof and yet it isn't,' collaborator notes

By Ivan M. Lincoln
Deseret Morning News

The Ogden-based Utah Musical Theatre is closing its 2005 summer season with the world premiere of "Wicked City Blues," a musical comedy with a 1940s setting.
Composer-librettist Norman Thalheimer, right, watches Don Circle Jr. and Jill Anderson rehearse for Utah Musical Theatre's premiere of his film-noir send-up, "Wicked City Blues."

Thomas L. Ammon, Weber State University
The show's two collaborators composer, lyricist and librettist Norman Thalheimer of Oxnard, Calif., and author Cornell Christianson of Venice Beach, Calif. are both in Ogden working with the cast and guest-director Jules Aaron to fine-tune the piece.

"It's a spoof and yet, it isn't," said Thalheimer. "It turns the film-noir genre on its head.

"It shifts back and forth between three worlds a radio production studio, inside the imaginations of radio listeners and film noir, with flashbacks within flashbacks."

It's also packed with music in the style of the 1940s, from swing to jazz, along with news clips and faux commercial jingles.

The show has had workshop productions in the past in Southern California and New York City, including limited, work-in-progress productions at the Tiffany Theatre in Hollywood, the Norris Theatre in Orange County and the York Theatre in New York (where the Tony Award-winning "Avenue Q" was launched). But Thalheimer said UMT's fully staged version "is considered to be the official world premiere in its present permutation."

Thalheimer said UMT Artistic Director Bruce Cohen first heard about "Wicked City Blues" from his guest director, Jules Aaron, who was one of Cohen's instructors nearly 20 years ago at Northridge State University in California. Cohen read the script and heard a recording, and he felt it would be a perfect fit for UMT audiences.

"We think this will be a real crowd-pleaser," said Thalheimer. "It's an original jazz musical with songs from the era in terms of style, but they're jazzed up.

"It will also have an edge to it because it is a mystery. Hopefully there's also a lot of humor, some pathos and a romance but most of all people should have a good time. . . . And be able to see a work that is, hopefully, bound for bigger things."

One of Thalheimer's previous claims to fame was being one of five composer-lyricists for a short-lived Broadway musical, "Marilyn: An American Fable," in 1983, which featured Scott Bakula as Joe DiMaggio. Thalheimer is now collaborating (with Christianson and Stephen Michael Schwartz) on a science-fiction musical, "It Came From Beyond," scheduled to play in September as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival.

The cast of UMT's production includes Jill Anderson as Charlotte Blane ("a dame who's's too hot to handle") and Don Circle Jr. as Mickey Morrison, a private detective in trouble up to his eyeballs. The "Neptune Radio Theater" presentation also has a couple of ruthless mobsters and, of course, a dead body.

Unlike the season's previous two UMT productions, "Wicked City Blues" will be staged in the Allred Theatre in WSU's Browning Center, not Peery's Egyptian Theater.

If you go . . .

What: "Wicked City Blues"
Utah Musical Theatre, Weber State University, Ogden
Friday through Aug. 6
How much:
626-8500 or 800-978-8457