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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 5, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 06
Bullets Over Broadway - the Musical at the Paramount
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Bullets Over Broadway - the Musical at the Paramount

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

BULLETS OVER BROADWAY -
THE MUSICAL
PARAMOUNT THEATRE
Through February 7


Bullets Over Broadway is one of many screen-to-stage adaptations to hit Broadway. Utilizing music from the era of the '20s and '30s, the musical has gunned its way onto the Paramount stage, and is based on the movie (and adapted for the stage) by Woody Allen.

The storyline is very similar to its movie counterpart. A young struggling playwright (David Shayne) is about to find his first success on Broadway. After a Mob Boss (Nick Valenti) gangster backs the show to have his talentless girlfriend (Olive) become the lead, the show starts to go awry. The Boss's bodyguard (Cheech) privately makes suggestions to the playwright and the show takes on a new life...until the playwright begins to loose control and Cheech starts to think of the show as being his creation.

Michael Williams plays David the playwright on the brink with a lot of enthusiasm. His voice is strong and the ambitious persona, in which he portrays the character, is very evident indeed. Mr. Williams is an agile dancer with great dexterity. His moves are graceful and he easily takes on the challenges of the [Susan] Stroman choreography. He keeps the charm with which his film predecessor (John Cusack) previously portrayed his character, and adds a personal aghast-ridden trait that works with the character. Jemma Jane plays the talentless Mob Moll, Olive. This character is a bit too stereotypically dumb blonde for the audience to swallow.

Almost everything from Olive's movements to the way she sounds is what anyone would expect from this formulaic character. This only goes to show the talent that Ms. Jane possesses - it takes talent to portray the talentless well, and Jemma Jane does it very well indeed. She adds comic relief to an otherwise languid script, except even the movements are cliché causing the audience to chuckle instead of guffaw. The leading character of this show has to be the Mob Hit-man Cheech, played by Jeff Brooks. Mr. Brooks brings it; his performance is NOT a stereotype despite how easy it would be to portray him that way. Mr. Brooks adds comedy the way it was meant to be in this type of show: subtly, and with timing. His voice is as strong as his stage presence, which is difficult to ignore. The other characters that we know from the film are presented well, but even Helen Sinclair is a Diva stereotype and the 'Don't Speak' scenes fall flat and get lost in this rather methodic show. There's a lot of talent on stage, unfortunately the script doesn't utilize most of it.

As with any musical the songs are an important character of the show. In this case, it bombs. Woody Allen purposely chose to use only timepiece music from the '20s and '30s. The songs worked much better as a background film underscore than having the characters singing them on stage. While characters breaking out in song may not be realistic, the songs these people sing seem disjointed, and are clearly thrown in for the sake to qualify as a musical. The finale, 'Yes, We Have No Bananas,' is so split from the storyline that it is obviously thrown in strictly for the sake of having an upbeat musical ending. Unfortunately, this musical is a case of what works on screen doesn't always work on stage.

The saving grace of this show is the second largest name on the billing, Susan Stroman. There is a lot of dancing choreographed by this acclaimed Broadway director/choreographer. As can be expected from her previous shows (Contact, The Music Man, The Producers) her large, exaggerated style easily spreads across the stage in a flashy, well-managed way. Those familiar with dance will see the Fosse influences that seem to be the basis for Ms. Stroman's ideas, and it is enjoyable to watch. From the Chorine girls in the clubs performing their acts, or the hit men's energetic rendition of 'Tain't Nobody's Bizness If I Do,' the dancing is the clearly the attraction of this musical.

While the stage musical is enjoyable, the movie doesn't have a large enough following to successfully translate to a live production. If you've never seen the film, your enjoyment level may be higher than that of the average audience member. If you've seen the movie, then pretty much whatever you thought of the film is what you'll think of the stage production, but one step lower.

Woody Allen based Bullets Over Broadway on his 1994 hit movie. The musical opened on Broadway March 11, 2014 and ran for under 200 performances. Despite having a short run on the Great White Way, the musical was nominated for six Tony Awards that season (including Best Book of a Musical and Best Choreography) but failed to win in any category. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards with Dianne Wiest (Helen Sinclair in the film) winning Best Actress in a Supporting Role.

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