A review by Suzanne Birrell.
The cast of the North American tour of the hit musical comedy BULLETS OVER BROADWAY, written by Woody Allen featuring original direction and choreography by Susan Stroman. (Photo by Matthew Murphy)
Bullets Over Broadway is one hot dog of a show not to be missed. Penned by Woody Allen the show is peppered with witty woodyisms and entertains on every level. The songs are retro while the story itself is new and engaging and smart.
[left: Michael Williams (David Shayne) and Hannah Rose DeFlumeri (Ellen) (Photo by Matthew Murphy)]
Being a jazz singer/bass player myself, I was with familiar with all but one the songs and delighted in the fresh arrangements by Glen Kelly . The young lady next to me, who was only familiar with the last song reported she absolutely loved the music. She wanted to know if the words and their double entendres lyrics had been updated. Nope. Even the risqué Hot Dog Song had its origin in the 20’s with the act Butterbeans and Susie, but actress Jemma Jane’s rendition of The Hot Dog Song nearly brought the house to its knees. Ms. Jane delivered a comic powerhouse performance to her very last breath and then some leaving the audience laughing at the most inappropriate time.
[Right: Bradley Allan Zarr (Warner Purcell) and Jemma Jane (Olive Neal) (Photo by Matthew Murphy)]
Another showstopper was the performance of T’ain’t Nobody’s Business if I Do (made famous by Bessy Smith). I’ll never be able to think of that song the same way again. With additional lyrics by Glen Kelly and performed by the Cheech (Jeff Brooks) and the Gangsters along with a terrific tap routine-WOW. (I am not lacking in vocabulary, but that is the word I heard over and over from the audience around me during the dance- WOW!) I do love tap and apparently the audience did too. The applause was unbelievably long and enthusiastic.
Left: Jeff Brooks (Cheech) and the Gangsters. (Photo by Matthew Murphy)
Michael Williams was brilliantly fluid as the writer David Shayne. His contortions throughout The Hot Dog Song were hysterical and his performance of The Panic is On (Fats Waller) at breakneck speed while articulating every word was amazing. He was able to elicit laughter just by singing the words Helen Sinclair over and over . A recent graduate of the Webster Conservatory (my alma mater as well), musical theatre will definitely be seeing more of this very talented actor/singer/dancer.
[Right: Emma Stratton (Helen Sinclair)(Photo by Matthew Murphy)]
Bradley Allan Zarr as Warner Purcell was the hottest actor on stage. His costumes got progressively more padded as his character gained weight. All the while he was suave and debonair to the comic extreme.
Emma Stratton as the inimitable Helen Sinclaire gave an iconic performance. She had moves and the moods.
Hannah Rose DeFlumeri was sweet and demure as Ellen, but when given her own risque opportunity, she rose to the occasion and belted with the best.
Opera singer Michael Corvino as Nick Valenti was inspirational. It’s the little things that really make a show great and his timing into the last song was just perfect.
Hands down,Bullets Over Broadway is a great show. The singers are stellar; the dancing superb; the choreography brilliant; the set design is fluid, functional and artistic; the costumes- well- I sure wish those fashions would come back in style with today’s fabrics; the sound design is right on; the musical arrangements are intense, the band is spot on. Sometimes at the Pantages on opening night the band can get a little too loud. It was perfectly balanced. Every word could be heard and understood. The show itself is rather ribald in spots and is recommended for an adult audience.
[Left: Kaylee Olson, Carissa Fiorillo and Elizabeth Dugas (The Atta- Girls) (Photo by Matthew Murphy)]
Don’t miss this smart new musical comedy. Bullets over Broadway is geared to entertain on every level, music-story-song-dance-costume-design perfection! Bullets Over Broadway premiered last season in New York and received six Tony Award nominations including Best Book of a Musical and Best Choreography. It’s a winner on my list.
Now playing at the Hollywood Pantages thru January 24, 2016
Michael Corvino (Nick Valenti), Jemma Jane (Olive Neal) and Michael Williams (David Shayne) (Photo by Matthew Murphy)