Saturday, April 26, 2014

Theater Review: Bullets Over Broadway, The Musical

Woody Allen's Bullets Over Broadway at the St. James, which is based on his 1994 film and adapted for the stage by Allen himself, has songs from the 1920s. You might recall that the story line centered around several gangsters who want to get into show business. And since the production has been directed and choreographed by the seemingly ubiquitous Susan Stroman, you know that there will be much to enjoy. Stroman starts the show with a fast-moving tap routine that is so exciting that I'm afraid the show reaches its peak at that point. Still, there are so many things to admire and applaud thereafter that it won't spoil your evening, even if I suggested that nothing matches the velocity of that prelude.

The plot line doesn't much matter: Cheech (Nick Cordero) iis a mobster who is employed by Nick Valenti (Vincent Pastore) a night club owner in the 1920s. Warmer Purcell (Brooks Ashmanskas). Warner, Helen Sinclair (Marin Mazzie) and Olive Neal (Helene Yorke) are show-business people who have been cast in an inane play by a new (and very young) playwright, David Shayne (Zach Braff). But Chech, who appears to know all about playwriting, begins to change the script until it actually has merit. But the book of the show here is mediocre. And the numbers appear to be forced into place. When, for example, a dead body is thrown into a canal, the tune is "Up a Lazy River." But the nightclub numbers appear to work nicely enough. And there's a little bit of The Producers here; and, given the situations with thugs, there's something right out of Guys and Dolls, too. But nothing is on the sublime level of those two works.

Still, the dance routines have spunk. The performances, too, have merit. And Santo Loquasto's colorful settings appear to adequately suit the time and place. And I must report that it was gratifying to see Karen Ziemba as Eden Brent. I have been enjoying Karen's performances ever since I first saw her in Miami years ago. She never disappoints.