Stone & Stine (City of Angels)

Music by Cy Coleman
Lyrics by David Zippel
Book by Larry Gelbart

”It’s as though I was hit by a wrecking ball wearing a pinky ring”
— Stone

City of Angels was an ambitious and well-received musical comedy that wowed them on Broadway in 1989, written by Larry (M*A*S*H) Gelbart, with music by Cy Coleman and lyrics by David Zippel.

At the time, it was viewed as a welcome reprieve from all those British Invasion mega-musicals (Cats! Helicopter! Madonna!) clogging the arteries of Broadway, and some have even credited it with “resurrecting the American Musical.” Instead of stunts and stunt-casting, it  focussed on a simple–if clever–script, spinning around the intertwined lives of fictional tough private eye STONE, and his creator, a horny young writer in 1940s Hollywood, STINE, who’s finding it increasingly difficult to separate his life from his creation, even as he struggles to adapt his detective novel, City of Angels, for the big screen. Shakespeare often set a play within a play, but Coleman, Zippel and Gelbart have set a film with a play.

Stone’s your typical 40s hard-guy P.I., an ex-cop down on his luck, with scars on his heart and his heart on his sleeve, with a lot on his mind. When we’re introduced to him, he’s in black and white, lying in the hospital (shades of The Singing Detective!), recovering from a gunshot wound. And then the action pulls back to reveal the techniclour “real” world where Stine is busy at his typewriter, rewriting the scene. Stine’s had a string of luck with his novels about Stone, but this adaptation of his own book is driving him crazy.

The action in the play continues to switch back and forth from the black-and-white world of the writer’s imagination and the full-colour, glaring, glitzy world of a Hollywood studio. Each character has a counterpart in the other reality, often played by the same actor. It may sound confusing, but it all works. Plus music…

The show ran for over three years on Broadway, followed by a Los Angeles production, and a subsequent U.S. national tour which played in Tampa, Washington, D.C., Saint Paul, Syracuse and Philadelphia. There was also a run in London’s West End.

The show received mostly favourable reviews, and even a few raves from some very big shot critics, praised for its wit, its music, and its ambition and cleverness, and certainly, there are enough one liners, double entendres and bon mots to fill the space between the equally cheeky musical numbers. It also scored a slew of awards, including both a Tony and a New York Drama Critics award for “Best Musical.”

In fact, the general consensus is that there’s plenty of good stuff in here. Mind you, it is a Broadway show, so the ball’s in your court…


  • ”Only the floor kept her legs from going on forever.”
    — Stone
  • “I’d rather see you shoot yourself
    Than watch you prostitute yourself”
    from “It Needs Work”
  • ”It’s as though I was hit by a wrecking ball wearing a pinky ring”
    — Stone
  • “If you’re not celibate
    We could raise hell a bit”
    from “Lost and Found”


  • City of Angels is that rarest of things on Broadway these days, a completely original American musical, not imported…”
    — Time Magazine
  • “There’s a miracle on Broadway — an American musical, with American jazz rhythms, American wisecracks, an original American script.”
    Jack Kroll (Newsweek)
  • “…some of the hippest, funnily rhymed lyrics in Broadway musical history.”
    Frederick W. Winship (UPI)
  • How long has it been since a musical was brought to halt by riotous jokes? If you ask me, one would have to travel back to the 1960s’… There is no end to the cleverness with which the creators of City of Angels carry out their stunt of double vision…This is an evening in which even a throwaway wisecrack spreads laughter like wildfire through the house, until finally the roars from the balcony merge with those from the orchestra and the pandemonium takes on a life of its own. “
    –Frank Rich (The New York Times)
  • “The most brilliant of musical comedies…”
    — Douglas Watt
  • “Gelbart’s dialogue and, with their sincerest form of flattery, Zippel’s lyrics, are so hard-boiled that they almost crack, and the wit is as light-handed as a machine gun. Yet all this is still backed with that taste, resonance and imagination which was all super-evident from the start of the show never actually flags.”
    — Clive Barnes


    (1989, New York City)
    Opened: December 11, 1989, Virginia Theatre, New York City
    Closed: January 19, 1992
    879 performances
    Written by Larry Gelbart
    Music by Cy Coleman
    Lyrics by David Zippel
    Directed by Michael Blakemore
    Sets by Robin Wagner
    Starring James Naughton as STONE
    and Gregg Edelman as STINE
    Also starring Kay McClelland, Randy Graff, Scott Waara, James Hindman, Rene Auberjonois, Dee Hoty, Rachel York, Shawn Elliot, Alvin Lum, Tom Galantich

    • ACT I
    • Prologue: Theme from City of Angels
    • “Double Talk” – Stone and Alaura Kingsley
    • “Double Talk” – Buddy Fidler and Stine
    • “What You Don’t Know About Women” – Gabby and Oolie
    • “Ya Gotta Look Out for Yourself” – Jimmy Powers and Angel City 4
    • “The Buddy System” – Buddy Fidler
    • “With Every Breath I Take” – Bobbi
    • “The Tennis Song” – Stone and Alaura Kingsley
    • “Ev’rybody’s Gotta Be Somewhere” – Stone and Angel City 4
    • “Lost and Found” – Mallory Kingsley
    • “All Ya Have to Do is Wait” – Munoz, Yamato, Mahoney and Officer Pasco
    • “You’re Nothing Without Me” – Stine and Stone
    • ACT II
    • “Stay with Me” – Jimmy Powers and Angel City 4
    • “You Can Always Count On Me” – Oolie
    • “You Can Always Count On Me” – Donna
    • “Double Talk” – Buddy Fidler and Party Guests
    • “Stay with Me” (Reprise) – Jimmy Powers and Angel City 4
    • “It Needs Work” – Gabby
    • “With Every Breath I Take” – Stone and Bobbi
    • “Funny” – Stine
    • “I’m Nothing Without You” – Stone, Stine and Gabby
    • “Epilogue: Theme from City of Angels”
    • “Double Talk Walk” (Curtain Call)


    (1990, Columbia)
    Music by Cy Coleman
    Lyrics by David Zippel
    Book by Larry Gelbart
    Produced by Cy Coleman and Mike Berniker
    Orchestra conducted by Gordon Lowry Harrell
    Featuring the cast from above.


  • CITY OF ANGELS: THE SCRIPT (2000)  Buy this book
    The complete script, plus an intro by Gelbart, illustrations by Al Hirschfeld, production photographs, and original costume designs.
  • CITY OF ANGELS: THE SONGBOOK (2007) Buy this book
    Arranged for Piano, Vocal and Guitar Chords



  • June 29, 2021
    The Bottom Line: The hit 1989 Broadway musical comedy about a hard-boiled 40s PI & his creator, struggling with dames, deadlines and Hollywood dicks of assorted types.
Report submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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