Woody Allen. Susan Stroman. High hopes. But BULLETS OVER BROADWAY the jukebox musical adaptation of Mr. Allen’s film (with Douglas McGrath) is a potpourri, pot luck production harking back to the 1920’s where the silly story didn’t matter as much as the jokes, the girls, the dances and the tunes.
And herein lies one of the fundamental mistakes – using a collection of songs from various composers of the period that are shoehorned into the story line – some songs work better than others but it just don’t sound right for the story or the characters no matter how hard they try to make it work.
One has to admire the tenacity and talent of Susan Stroman who has given us many a huge hit in the past. In BULLETS she has created some terrific dance routines – the “Tiger Rag” “The Hot Dog Song” and the show stopping Gangster Tap “Tain’t Nobody’s Biz-ness If I Do” headed by the real star of the show Nick Cordero as Cheech – the body guard of Olive Neal (Helene York) a would be actress and hot tootsie moll of Nick Valenti (Vincent Pastore) who promises to make her a star by investing in a play written by David Shayne (Zach Braff) a miscasting error of the highest degree. He is more Ray Romano than the voice of Woody Allen – and that is a detriment to the overall stunning to look at and enjoyable production.
The otherwise talented Mr. Braff seems dull and flat as the aspiring non-compromising writer that ultimately must compromise to get his show produced – leaving the door wide open for the exceptional Mr. Cordero to take over the stage as the goon who rewrites the failing script into a mega Broadway hit.
I had seen Mr. Cordero in THE TOXIC AVENGER and he was a laugh riot. He is doubly so here singing and dancing into a possible Tony Award with his spot on performance.
You will certainly get more bang for your buck here with the opulent costumes designed by Mr. William Ivey Long and the gorgeous fast changing sets of Santo Loquasto – despite the whitewashing of The Cotton Club.
The cast of stock characters are fun, although they’re been around for a quite a while: the vain and aging star making a comeback who drinks and is a nympho Helen Sinclair (an over the top Marin Mazzie) who never seems drunk despite her intake of fluids, Ellen (a delightful Betsy Wolfe) the girlfriend of the playwright whom he spurns when he falls for Helen, the overweight costar Warner Purcell (a fleet of foot Brooks Ashmanskas) who eats everything in sight including the dog biscuits of Mr. Woofles (Trixie) held tightly by his owner Eden Brent (Karen Ziemba).
Ms. Stroman even manages to make murder funny as bodies are shot and dropped off at The Gowanus Canal and delivers a rousing first act finale “Runnin’ Wild” but can’t get the show to come together as a satisfying whole.
BULLETS OVER BROADWAY is a puzzle where some of the pieces fit beautifully and others don’t. It’s a shame because there is so much that is enjoyable. At the St. James Theatre.
Photos: Paul Kolnik
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