Glenn Korff School of Music presents 'City of Angels' in November

The Glenn Korff School of Music presents the musical “City of Angels,” in November. The musical is directed by Coordinator of Musical Theatre Studies Alisa Belflower.
The Glenn Korff School of Music presents the musical “City of Angels,” in November. The musical is directed by Coordinator of Musical Theatre Studies Alisa Belflower.

The Glenn Korff School of Music presents the musical “City of Angels,” in November. The musical is directed by Coordinator of Musical Theatre Studies Alisa Belflower.

Performances are Nov. 14 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 16 at 3 p.m. in Kimball Recital Hall. Tickets are $20 adults and $10 for students and seniors. Advance tickets are available from the Lied Center Box Office at (402) 472-4747 or (800) 432-3231 or at the door one hour before the performance.

“Musically, it has a very unique plot,” Belflower said. “There hasn’t really been anything else like it before or since.”

Featuring a cast of 33 graduate and undergraduate students, “City of Angels” weaves together two plots: the real world of a detective novelist trying to turn his book into a screenplay, which is in color; and the world of the fictional film he is creating, which is in black and white.

“The whole show is the process of him writing the screenplay for his own novel. You get the plot of the movie and you get the plot of the writer as he writes the script,” Belflower said. “The show is all about how vulnerable you are when you’re creating something out of your imagination, and how protective you can be about your artistic work. The whole creative process is so fresh and real to the young students. I thought it was something they could all easily relate to.”

The show opened on Broadway in 1989 and won six Tony Awards, including Best Musical; as well as Drama Desk Awards, Outer Critics Circle Awards and the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Play.

“When ‘City of Angels’ premiered on Broadway, it won just about every award available that year because it is very original and it is very different from every other musical in so many respects,” Belflower said. “It’s a tribute to film noir movies and a loving kind of jab at Hollywood, as well as a love letter to people who create art.”

Members of the newly configured UNL Jazz Orchestra will be in the pit to play for “City of Angels,” which has a 1940s Big Band/Jazz musical influence.

“I’m looking for a production that allows as many students as possible opportunities to have moments where they are carrying the show,” Belflower said. “Because they need that experience to be able to make their next step into the professional world, and ‘City of Angels’ fits those needs. It also aligns really well with the fact that UNL now has a Jazz Orchestra that is a combination of string instruments and traditional jazz band instruments.”

Several of the students in the cast recently received recognition at the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) National Conference last July, including Angela Gilbert, a senior music major from Ralston, Neb., who won the collegiate musical theatre women’s division; and Jeremy Brown, a junior music education major from Kearney, Neb., who was awarded second place in the men’s musical theatre division.

“I’m very fortunate to have students who are gifted and talented and trained well enough to take on something this complicated, in terms of going back and forth between playing two characters,” Belflower said. “I couldn’t be more grateful to have that level of talent to work with on stage in creating the show.”

Gilbert takes on two characters: Donna, the assistant to the famous director/producer; and Oolie, the secretary to the private investigator in the film noir world of the movie being written.

“It’s always so exciting to develop a character and figure out the deeper motive for every movement and line that a character is given,” Gilbert said. “Every character has a backstory, and it’s the actor’s job to find it and use it to give meaning to the words on the page. It’s also fun to see what the different assistants have in common and how they are very different from each other. It’s also intriguing to visit the 1940’s when as high as most women could rise in the business world was being the assistant or secretary to a powerful male boss.”

Brown plays Stone, the private detective in the fictional world, whose life is turned upside down when the beautiful and mysterious Alaura Kingsley shows up at his office, offering him a case that spirals out of control.

“The mirroring effect of this show between the two separate stories is something special, and the level of depth and careful attention to detail the writers put into this story is incredible,” Brown said. “I am definitely looking forward to performing ‘City of Angels’ for audiences, and I can’t wait for them to enjoy all the intricacies found within.”

Belflower is looking forward to seeing everything come together for the performances.

“We have the whole black and white and color element, which we only get to imagine until we get to technical rehearsals, so it has to live in the actors’ and my imaginations for a long time before we actually see the bright colors and the black and white of the sets and costumes,” she said. “It’s a very thrilling thing to see so many vital elements come together.”

Brown said it is definitely a production.

“Audiences can expect, quite simply, a spectacular production,” he said. “Production is the key word, with the combination of the set design, costuming, directing and all the cast and crew involved. This show will be the 1940s. Like all successful shows, all parts of the production need to be working together equally, and with the amazing ideas the production team has for this show, I think it will truly be a work of art and a thing to behold.”

Gilbert said audiences will have fun watching “City of Angels.”

“This show is so much fun for the audience because you get to watch the process of a writer struggling with the idea of ‘selling out,’” she said. “Watching the writer make changes to his work as he fights to stay true to himself invites you to remember that you are the hero of your own story and life. This story is so interesting and captivating, only to be intensified by beautiful lights, staging, music and direction. You will not want to miss seeing this incredible piece of art.”

Belflower hopes audiences come out for this rare chance to see one of the great modern musicals.

“It’s a show that you don't get to see very often because of its complex nature, and it requires a big cast and the jazz string orchestra,” Belflower said. “I think it’s a rare opportunity to see a phenomenal show.”

Brown agrees.

“If people decide to come to this show, don’t hesitate to drink it all in and experience the world on stage,” he said. “It’s not too often that the Glenn Korff School of Music gets to take on such a huge musical theatre production, so come see it!”

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