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Australia 2010
Directed by
Gregory Miller / Liz Courtenay
100 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Angels In New York

Angels In New York is a documentary about of pair of Chinese-Australian who, in what is a kind of a real version of Flight Of The Conchords, head off to New York in a bold attempt to get their first musical on Broadway. The result is more tragic than humorous however.

Originally screened as a 4 part series on SBS, Gregory Miller and Liz Courtenay’s observational documentary does not have the train wreck fascination of Gary Doust’s comparable Making Venus (2003) which dealt with the misguided adventures of a couple of wannabe film-makers. The main problem is that it is not particularly revealing of what is a quite remarkable story. Ken Lai and Marcus Cheong are a couple of geeky life-long friends who have written an epic musical in the classic Rice-Weber mode. Lai, who wrote the music would probably have been content to puddle around with it in his bedroom but Cheong, as seems so typically Chinese, has much grander ideas and so the pair, together with Cheong’s wife, set off to New York to put the show together.

The main frustration with the film's approach is that although claiming that the team set off with a ”few thousand dollars” there is never any satisfactory explanation of how they managed to not only survive a year in New York but assemble a considerable pre-production team of experienced professionals, none of whom presumably were working pro bono and to get almost to opening night before the Global Financial Crisis brought them down.

When Cheong brings out his collection of model dragons in order to explain his vision to a would-be assistant director (who still comes on board!!) you’ve really got to wonder how many desperate people are there in music theatre land. Clearly a lot. But I’d still like to know how Cheong, a total stranger in New York with no track record managed to raise US$14 million dollars or how bills were paid whilst he was doing so. Unfortunately presumably because Cheong is still out there hustling the dream, Miller and Courtenay soft-pedal their material and the lack of candour means that this potentially-fascinating story is superficially told.

Available from: Madman




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