Published on July 4th, 2017 | by Biz Books
The Biz Interview: Michael Lomenda
The place – Los Angeles. The time – the late 1940s. A New York crime novelist agrees, at the behest of a Hollywood producer, to adapt his latest novel into a screenplay but how much is he willing to sacrifice for a taste of fame and fortune? As the disillusioned author’s marriage falls apart, we see, simultaneously, the adventures of his detective presented as if in black and white film….
This is the set-up for the stage musical City of Angels, which plays in Vancouver from July 9th through July 17th at Performance Works. Presented by the Pit Collective, this ambitious show is directed by Jennifer Copping, co-directed by Sylvia M. Zaradic, with choreography by Ken Overbey and musical direction by Angus Kellett.
The cast includes Jesse Alvarez, Crystal Balint, Jennifer Copping, Janet Gigliotti, Callum Gunn, Caitlin Clugston, Paul Herbert, Thomas King, Miranda MacDougall, Tim Perez, Chase Sander, John R. Taylor, Donal Thoms-Cappello, and Lindsay Warnock.
The talented Canadian actor Michael Lomenda, perhaps best-known for starring in Jersey Boys on the Broadway stage and later the big screen adaptation for director Clint Eastwood, plays Stone, the detective in City of Angels.
We spoke to Michael Lomenda to get the scoop on City of Angels.
Can you start by telling us about you and your involvement in City of Angels?
I’m Michael Lomenda and I play Detective Stone in the show, Stine’s alter-ego in the film noir novel he’s adapting for the screen.
What should audiences expect from the show?
City of Angels has got a little something for everyone – it takes place in Los Angels in the late 1940s, when the big Hollywood studios were churning out the hit classic Film Noir films like The Maltese Falcon or Double Indemnity. Stine is a writer from New York who’s been hired to adapt his film noir novel and, as a fish out of water in the Hollywood world, navigates sleazy studio heads, actor egos, re-writes and the relationship with his wife, who sees through all the Hollywood smoke and mirrors.
Meanwhile, as he’s adapting the novel to film, we see it all unfold in fantastic film noir fashion, right in front of your eyes with all the dames, guns, thugs and great lighting everyone loves about the classic film noir films.
AND, on top of it all, the music is incredible! A blend of incredible torch songs, jazzy Manhattan Transfer harmonies, and hilarious comic tour de force tunes. Musically, in Cy Coleman and David Zippel’s hands, you’d have to be dead to be bored.
How did you prepare for your role?
Besides reading the script relentlessly, I watched a bunch of film noir documentaries and films just to really immerse myself in it all, which was kinda like an Easter egg hunt because every film or documentary I watched, the more you find all the incredible nods and references to the film noir genre running through City of Angels. If you’re a fan of this genre, this show’ll be a real treat.
What’s the most rewarding part of acting in a musical?
For me, good musicals like this one are the coming together of all my favorite things, and contrary to how some people in “the biz” are portrayed in our show, the people I work with are my favorite perk of doing what I love.
Where do you get your creative inspiration from?
Tons of things. I listen to a lot of music. Podcasts. I meditate. I watch a ton of movies and TV. I travel, I eat food, I love visual art. I steal from the fellow actors I admire. I read. Ultimately, being an actor is not just that, I feel like it’s being and artist, so I work at trying to find inspiration in life. Oh, and bourbon.
What are the three most important elements for a good stage musical?
A good director first and foremost who has a clear vision and the ability to steer the ship, make quick decisions, and ultimately be able to TRUST. Trust that the script and score is incredible (if it is), trust the actors will bring it (if they’ve cast well), trust they’ve assembled a brilliant crew who will have their back and trust that their vision is strong and compelling to truly engage and audience. There’s at least three things in there, right?
What books and authors would you recommend for stage performers?
Just read it all. Honestly. And then cherry pick whatever works for you. I also find interviews with actors really (useful) and any time I can go to a talk-back with working directors, producers, writers, and actors, I go. Almost always they say something that inspires me to feel more courageous.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career so far?
To be okay with failure. And that ultimately you have to lean into it. Rehearsal can be grody sometimes because you’re falling on your face in front of everyone over and over again. But you have to do it, and you have to do it in front of everyone because it’s how you pick yourself up that’s interesting.
What do you want your artistic legacy to be as a performer?
Are you kidding with this question?! It’s so epic!!! Honestly, I just love the people I work with so I hope they all show up at my funeral and sing and there’s a good spread with lots of cheese and they talk about my ridiculous backstage dancing and hopefully, my open heart. I grew up as a weird kid in small town Alberta, and I’m incredibly grateful for where my career has taken me, so, I think if, in my career, I’ve ever inspired anyone to go into the arts or push a little harder in the biz for a little longer, or to write or paint or knit or sing or whatever, I’d sincerely be a happy camper.
Where can people find out more about you and City of Angels?
Thanks to Michael Lomenda for speaking with us!
You can see City of Angels at Performance Works from July 9th through July 17th with a special preview on July 8th. For tickets, please visit BrownPaperTickets.com.