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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
Gun Metal Blues
This droll little musical film noir send-up doesn't miss a chance to skewer all the clichés of the genre: the peripheral blonde, different wigs, but always voluptuous; the sardonic cynical gumshoe Sam Galahad; and the bullying police inspector, the menacing mumbling gangster, the Arab taxi driver, all played by the slick piano player Buddy Toupee.
Three characters play all these roles in this tuneful clever production. Scott Wentworth's book and lyrics by Craig Bohmler and Marion Adler (who also wrote the music) do full homage to the unforgettable zingers of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett; for example, one character's murmurs "Staring at your face in a mirror like asking directions.quot;
The action begins in an airport area bar called The Red Eye Lounge that looks like the sort of place where people go for their last chance at action. Buddy Toupee at the piano listens to Sam Galahad, propping up the bar, telling about the day a blonde in a trench coat named Laura Vesper found his office ("expensive high heels clicking down cheap linoleum"). Laura has a job for Sam. Find Jennifer Wasp, vanished daughter of murdered mogul Adrian Wasp. Jennifer is Sam's long-lost love but is she also a killer?
Ask The Princess, a bag lady, or Carol Indigo, a soused chanteuse. Better yet, sing about it, and they do. Highlights are "Gunmetal Blues" sung by Sam, "Childhood Days", a wonderful trio; "I'm The One That Got Away" by The Princess and Buddy's "The Virtuoso."
Jeffrey Rockwell, The Piano Player who's also the musical director, can sell any song and the virtuosity of his acting is remarkable. Especially hilarious is the Arab cab driver who drives Sam around town. In an inspired moment of stagecraft, the cabbie slaps on the hats of the other characters he plays and becomes the mumbling gangster, the bullying cop and, of course, Buddy Toupee.
Susan King faces the most challenging vocal demands of the three. She has the beauty and the acting range to anchor her many roles and a lovely delicate voice which enables her to acquit herself well, despite some strident notes. Kevin Symons slyly slides some Humphrey Bogart mannerisms into his Sam Galahad but not so many that they obscure the scruffy tough character he creates.
Andrew Barnicle, who initiated this production in his Laguna Playhouse, directs with humor and pizzazz. An offstage trio of musicians lends solid blues support.
John Berger designed a red set for The Red Eye Lounge, deliciously dimly lit by Paulie Jenkins. Costume Designer Dwight Richard Odle is confined to the basics with Buddy's slinky tux and Sam's signature trench coat but he has his wicked way with The Blonde's sensuous gowns.
Editor's Note: When I first saw this little musical noir it at what is now the Rattlestick Theater in Greenwich Village (pre-CurtainUp) it starred husband and wife composer creative team Scott Wentworth and his wife Marion Adler. It didn't make a big enough stir to move on to a larger New York location but I'm happy to see that it has had quite a life and that we've finally had a chance to add it to our list of reviewed shows. -- e.s.