Friday, January 8, 2016

Review: Gangsters, Guns, and BULLETS OVER BROADWAY

Jeff Brooks (center) and the men of Bullets Over Broadway
All photos by Matthew Murphy

Gangsters, gams, and Broadway dreams are the stuff Woody Allen hilariously spoofed in his 1994 film, Bullets Over Broadway, co-written with Douglas McGrath. Full of smart dialogue and zippy one-liners, it scored an Oscar for Dianne Wiest and proved that audiences will always be interested in the backstage antics of the biz, especially when given the Woody Allen treatment.  

It would be another twenty years before Allen would adapt the film for Broadway and though it took its best shot on the Great White Way in 2014, it didn’t do particularly well, running for only five months before closing to mixed reviews.

Now the show is out on the road in a touring production that packs a three-way punch in its sit-down at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre – but not necessarily in the way one might hope.

The cast of Bullets Over Broadway

Sporting Susan Stroman’s Tony Award-nominated choreography (recreated here by Clare Cook), William Ivey Long’s dazzling 1920’s costumes, and a standout performance by Jeff Brooks as thug-turned-dramaturg, Cheech, it does manage to deliver enough of a rousing good time to make it worth the trip. Where it falls short is in the inauthentic and completely over-the-top (not in a good way) campy performances by the majority of its cast.

Granted, that appears to be a directorial choice by Stroman – who also directed the show on Broadway and whose staging is recreated here by Jeff Whiting – however the stereotypes are so shallow that they end up off-putting rather than endearing.

Headstrong young playwright David Shayn (Michael Williams) finally gets his big break on Broadway but must immediately compromise his principles when the backer (Michael Corvino as Nick Valenti) insists that his talentless tart of a girlfriend (Jemma Jane as Olive) be cast. Since he also happens to be a member of the mob, Shayne has little choice but to go along.

As the shrewish Olive pushes to make her part larger, David falls under the spell of egotistical leading lady Helen Sinclair (Emma Stratton - right), an aging diva with a drinking problem and a penchant for the melodramatic, causing him to step out on his longtime girlfriend, Ellen (Hannah Rose DeFlumeri). Stratton’s singsong vocal pattern too soon becomes tiresome but she looks stunning in Long’s period costumes, quite like an Erté brought to life. DeFlumeri’s mostly thankless part doesn’t give her much opportunity to strut her stuff but for a late in the second act duet with Williams, “I’ve Found a New Baby,” that finally lets her shine. 

Other than DeFlumeri and Brooks, the most engaging stage time belongs to the chorus who breeze through Stroman’s cheeky and delicious dance moves with enough brio to make this Broadway baby bearable. Even Brooks gets his turn on the dance floor with a muscular display of athletics with the men in “Tain’t Nobody’s Bizness If I Do” following a hit. Indeed, that number alone stopped the show on opening night accompanied by well-deserved thunderous applause.

It’s a shame too because with such a high level of pure, unadulterated joy in the musical’s dance numbers this show should have been a real winner.

Rather than write original songs for Bullets Over Broadway, Allen instead opted to use existing songs from the 1920s for his score with musical adaptation and additional parody lyrics by Glen Kelly. The fun is in seeing how Kelly tweaks them to connect moments in the story that result in some unexpected comic twists. “Up a Lazy River” and the aforementioned “Tain’t Nobody’s Bizness If I Do” pull the biggest laughs but there are others that run the gamut from charming to crazy to crass. 

Go for the dancing, the costumes, and the thug and you won’t be disappointed. But whatever you do, steer clear of the canal.

The Red Caps

Michael Williams and Hannah Rose DeFlumeri

Kaylee Olson, Carissa Fiorillo and Elizabeth Dugas
(The Atta- Girls)

Jemma Jane (Olive Neal) and cast

January 5 – 24, 2016
Hollywood Pantages Theatre
6233 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028
Tickets: 1-800-982-2787 or
Official show site:  

For more Musicals in LA news:
Become a Fan on Facebook
Follow Musicals in LA on Twitter
Click Here to return to home page



<< Home


<< Home

<< Home