“What is real and what is illusion?” is a question often asked, especially in theatre and films. But, of course, those life forms create illusions themselves. You may legitimately ask why is this worn-out question being asked here? This isn’t a real conversation, even if you ask that or “ Is this going to be some kind of think piece?”  Hello. This is the writer trying to connect with you.

Re writers, surely you’ve heard that creators of fiction can lose their ways and reel in astonishment finding themselves interacting with invented characters as if real. So what about a guy, writing about reel characters, screen people, suddenly finding that one of them comes to life and tries to take over his, both lives so intertwined that it’s tough to tell them apart?

And then they start to sing!  Holy smokes! This can’t be serious. No, pal, it ain’t. It’s a musical re-visit to the steamy, misty, twilight world of black and white private eyes. The guys who tangle with sleazy hoods and hot dames and could come out smelling like roses or like garbage, while hitting all the right notes.

Hollywood. At Omaha Community Playhouse it emerges from the shadows as City of Angels, the 1992 Broadway sensation which ran for more than two years and snagged a big handful of Tonys including those for best musical, book and score.  Get this: “There are plenty of musicals with clever lyrics…clever books…A handful even manage clever melodies. But ‘City of Angels,’ ….is the rarity that has all three.” New York Times

Larry Gelbart, Cy Coleman and David Zippel put this dynamite package together. Gelbart, an Emmy and Peabody Award winner, wrote the script. Got another Tony for Sondheim’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. TV’s M*A*S*H* is another of his prized achievements. So was his writing for Sid Caesar. 

The music is by Cy Coleman, sometimes jazz pianist and a prize-winner himself: three Emmys, two Grammys plus another Tony. Note: Little Me, Sweet Charity, On the Twentieth Century, The Will Rogers Follies etc.

David Zippel came up with the lyrics as he did for Marvin Hamlisch’s songs in The Goodbye Girl and for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s in The Woman in White. Disney movies, too, including Hercules and Mulan.

Hey! Language advisory. What’d you expect? Nice guys finish last. This piece is finished. Ba-da-da-boom.

City of Angels runs Mar. 4-Apr.3 Howard and Rhonda Hawks Mainstage Theatre, Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St. Weds.-Sat.: 7:30 p.m. Sunday: 2 p.m. Tickets $20-$40. www.omahaplayhouse.com

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