In 1994, “Bullets Over Broadway” came to the big screen under the direction of Woody Allen, continuing in his zany tradition of blurring comedy and crime in a farce that attracted seven Academy Award nominations. Exactly twenty years later, the musical edition stopped by the actual Great White Way based on the screenplay by Allen and Douglas McGrath, plus original direction and choreography by five-time Tony Award winner Susan Stroman, attracting six Tony nominations and running for about 150 performances.
Nonetheless, “Bullets” picks up steam as David finally mounts his completely changed play, and in the tradition of Mel Brooks’ “The Producers,” even the most unmitigated disaster becomes a delight to audiences and critics alike, which is also a real life possibility for longtime Allen fans in particular.
Though it wasn’t a resounding smash, “Bullets Over Broadway: The Musical” had enough of a following the first time around to hit the road (where it’s currently in residence at The PrivateBank Theatre through May 1). And even without a major marquee name, the cast is absolute dynamite in their delivery of a plot surrounding burgeoning playwright David Shayne (Michael Williams), who’s trying to land a cerebral show on Broadway in the 1920s.
It may sound simple at first glance, but when mobster Nick Valenti (Michael Corvino) invests in the show and wants his talentless girlfriend Olive Neal (Jemma Jane) to become a star, it begins the first of many compromises. From there, the demands and dramas escalate with every loony scene, from leading lady Helen Sinclair (Emma Stratton) wanting a more liberating part, to co-star Warner Purcell (Bradley Allan Zarr) overeating his way through opening night jitters and Olive’s brute bodyguard Cheech (Jeff Brooks) suggesting countless rewrites to the show that are surprisingly beneficial.
Even with all the laughs along the way, some come at the expense of extremely crass double entendres, which may not make Allen appreciators flinch, but could raise eyebrows amongst more unsuspecting theatergoers. “The Hot Dog Song” is amongst one of the more over the top analogies, while several other roaring songs find cast members dancing, twisting and falling their way into overtly sexual positions.
The only other issue with the show is its length, which runs just over two-and-a-half hours (including the intermission), but could stand at least 20 minutes of trimming. Nonetheless, “Bullets” picks up steam as David finally mounts his completely changed play, and in the tradition of Mel Brooks’ “The Producers,” even the most unmitigated disaster becomes a delight to audiences and critics alike, which is also a real life possibility for longtime Allen fans in particular.