The Broadway opening night of City of Angels in December 1989 looked like a certain disaster. The word on the street was that it would fail, and in the theatre itself, things were even worse. The heating system shut down, and the Virginia Theatre was freezing cold.
But certain comedians will tell you that people will laugh when they’re cold because they're alert, but when they’re hot they’ll just fall asleep. And that night, they laughed. New York Times critic Frank Rich described it as “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 it’s own.”
Instead of failing, City of Angels played for more than two years and nearly 900 performances, and pretty much swept the Tony Awards before moving on to Los Angeles and London, and a national tour.
A year later, Rich would lament that newer musicals were overpriced and “aimed at wealthy tourists of limited attention span and advancing age,” and longed for City of Angels, “a satire that gave the audience credit for verbal and visual imagination.” At the end of his 12 year career as chief critic, Rich named only four new musicals as his favorites. City of Angels was one of them.