Broadway pundits were hardly surprised when “City of Angels” won a clutch of 1990 Tony Awards including Best Musical. After all, the multilayered narrative—about a writer struggling to turn his private-eye novel into a screenplay without selling out—was at once a parody of the forties gumshoe genre, a satire on Hollywood excess and a universal tale about an artist remaining true to his integrity in the face of commercial success. It boasted a jazzy score, snappy lyrics and a clever book that was faithful in tone to that which it spoofed (“…only the floor kept her legs from going on forever” muses a Sam Spade-like macho investigator about a femme fatale). So it comes as a great surprise that even with this manna from musical-theatre heaven, not to mention a handsome budget that can afford a working turntable and a twenty-one piece orchestra, One Theatre Company has produced a ponderous revival saddled with muffled acoustics, leaden performances and an art deco set that is never employed to its fullest advantage. It’s frustrating to see money misspent, but even more frustrating to see an obviously capable and eager company of actors ignored: the lethargic zombies of the current “Dead” film seem to have received more interesting direction than the floundering ensemble in “City of Angels.” A few moments notwithstanding (mainly those involving the snazzy orchestra), this is a disappointing production of an otherwise great musical. (Fabrizio O. Almeida)
Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport, (312)902-1500. Thu-Sat 8pm/Sun 2pm. $15-$28. Through Aug 7.