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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 29, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 05
Bullets Over Broadway, the Musical:
An interview with Jeff Brooks
Arts & Entertainment
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Bullets Over Broadway, the Musical:
An interview with Jeff Brooks

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

BULLETS OVER BROADWAY,
THE MUSICAL
PARAMOUNT THEATRE
February 2-7


Bullets Over Broadway is Woody Allen's 1994 hit movie about an author trying to get his work produced on Broadway. One of the most beloved characters in the film is 'Cheech,' a bodyguard turned script doctor, whose natural writing talents outshine the play's author. As the movie transfers to the stage, that role is played by Jeff Brooks. The Seattle Gay News caught up with Mr. Brooks as the musical prepares for its Seattle debut.

Eric Andrews-Katz: Who were your earliest influences in becoming a performer?

Jeff Brooks: The very earliest influence I can remember is when my family took me to see the New York 1994 revival of Damn Yankees. I got to see Victor Garber and Bebe Neuwirth and it was life changing. I got to see them do one of my favorite musicals of all time.

Andrews-Katz: What was the first show that gave you the theater bug?

Brooks: Growing up my dad was the coach of a baseball team. There was not a lot of theatrical influence there. My mother was the director of the High School Drama. She was directing The Music Man and realized they were short people, and asked if I would come in. I thought it would be fun. I have now done The Music Man three times, but that is where I caught the bug. In college I got to do the MC in Cabaret, the Prince in Into the Woods, Billy Flynn in Chicago and Billy Bigalow in Carousel.

Andrews-Katz: The musical Bullets Over Broadway is based on the hit film. What differences can the audience expect?

Brooks: The movie has music to it, but it doesn't utilize the same songs and music we do. Musical theater fans will know the differences in one name Susan Stroman. This is Woody Allen's hit film with the paintbrush of Susan Stroman added to it. We are merging two worlds here, Allen and Stroman. These two work together not only a piece of theater, but as an unmatched, unpatrolled addition.

Andrews-Katz: What is it about the 1920's that strike an interest with the American public?

Brooks: It was a time of the public's acceptance of Organized Crime. People knew it was going on and they couldn't do anything about it. Big money, crime, prohibition and the people who controlled drugs and alcohol controlled the world. No one was going to stop them. They got the takes on the take. Criminals were celebrities of that time; we almost glorify them. Maybe it wasn't accepted at the time, but people definitely looked the other way.

Andrews-Katz: In Bullets Over Broadway you play the gangster Cheech. After the success of the film, how do you make the role your own?

Brooks: I'm following in the footsteps of some amazing actors. Accolades are hard to receive when following nominations for Best Supporting Actor Academy Award (Chazz Palminteri) and Best Featured Actor Tony Award (Nick Cordero). I came into this assuming it was a well-written role, which it is. My perspective was not to watch the movie ahead of time. I was doing a Broadway show in Vegas, so I didn't get a chance to see it on Broadway. I went into it playing who I thought 'Cheech' was; a heavy who got the work done, wearing blinders with his boss, and is shocked to find that his opinions really matter. You'll see the character change, once he sees the changes he can make, and finds his flair.

Andrews-Katz: Is there original music in Bullets Over Broadway or is it a jukebox musical from the era?

Brooks: It strictly uses music from the 1920's and 1930's. The 'Great Years' of music, as they say. There is some amazing music from that time. This particular musical has been highly lauded and criticized for its lack of original music. There are some new lyrics added to these songs that further the story along, and the plot; they aren't thrown in just to have a song break. They aren't just dance numbers, they are telling part of the story. Woody Allen thought it would serve his piece better [to do it this way] than to have original music written.

Andrews-Katz: What advantages are there in being a jukebox musical as opposed to having an original score?

Brooks: If you look at any jukebox musical the songs are chosen carefully because they define the genre. Jersey Boys and Rock of Ages are musicals where the songs have a certain flavor to them. In this show, the flavor is all '20s and '30s, and helps to transport the audience into feeling at home {in the era] right away.

Andrews-Katz: If you could play any role - regardless of any limitation - what would it be and why?

Brooks: That's a great question. Now I wonder if I should go gender specific. Looking at my resume, I've played a lot of Disney princes and villains. I love playing the villains. There are a lot of Disney projects in motion, so I'm looking ahead to their new workshop, the musical Frozen on stage. I'll have to say [in that case] Hans; I would love to play that role.

Bullets Over Broadway, the Musical is based on the hit Woody Allen film by the same name. Broadway Across America presents Bullets Over Broadway, the Musical at the Paramount Theatre (911 Pine St.), February 2-7. For tickets: www.stgpresents.org; 877-STG-4TIX.

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