I’m the first to admit that I’m a sucker for an old-fashioned, silly, over-the-top Broadway production. Cole Porter has always been one of my favorites. As lovely as the smaller-scale shows can be, and as innovative as the updated, modern takes on Broadway can be, there is still something about that traditional Broadway feel that always makes me smile. And I definitely left the St. James smiling on Monday after seeing Bullets Over Broadway.
For those not familiar with the film (as I was not): the story centers around a young playwright named David Shayne, whose first two produced plays were flops. He finally gets the chance to bring his new work to Broadway, but unfortunately for him, the “money” behind the production is gangster Nick Valenti, who wants his aspiring actress girlfriend Olive Neal to have a part.
To say that Olive does not have the acting chops to conquer her role in David’s play would be an understatement, but that’s only the first of the many problems that arise. Infidelity, food addiction, gang hits and plagiarism plague the production from the first rehearsal until opening night, and it is sinfully entertaining.
Bullets Over Broadway uses songs from the time period (the 1920’s) with some new lyrics penned by Glen Kelly. It is one of the best uses of existing music in a new musical that I have ever seen. The new lyrics help the songs move the story along (a frequent issue with jukebox musicals) and there are some unforgettable numbers. My favorites were The Hot Dog Song, where Olive gives David a demonstration of her previous acting experience with a none-too-subtle double entendre, and ‘Taint Nobody’s Bizness, for which I have just three words: tap dancing gangsters. Okay, three more words: Yay Susan Stroman! The finale, which is billed simply as “Finale” in the program and which I will not spoil as it is well worth being surprised (and possibly perplexed) by the song choice, is an oddly perfect ending and will have you chuckling all the way through the curtain call.
Stand-outs for me in the cast were Helene Yorke as Olive Neal – her grating accent and terrible “acting” were consistently hilarious – and Nick Cordero as gangster Cheech, Olive’s reluctant bodyguard who becomes increasingly invested in David’s play. Cordero nails his gangster persona, but still manages to astound with his singing and dancing when the time comes. I’m also a major fan of Betsy Wolfe in any role, and while her part as David’s neglected girlfriend Ellen is not one of the largest, she nails her two big numbers and is, as always, a delight to watch. Zach Braff is solid (and adorable) in his Broadway debut, and if he’s the reason you choose this show in particular you will not be disappointed. There is also an AMAZING dog in this show, and if Best Performance by an Animal were a Tony Award category, Trixie as Mr. Woofles would be a shoe-in.
If you want a traditional Broadway experience with a real old-fashioned musical comedy feel, Bullets Over Broadway is a perfect choice! If you have questions about the show, or want to book a package including Bullets Over Broadway tickets, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.