Broadway Theater Review: BULLETS OVER BROADWAY (St. James Theatre)

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by Paulanne Simmons on April 28, 2014

in Theater-New York

SOME OF THE GLITZ WORKS, BUT BULLETS BASICALLY SHOOTS BLANKS

Vincent Pastore, Nick Cordero, Karen Ziemba, Marin Mazzie, Brooks Ashmanskas, Helene Yorke and Betsy Wolfe with the Cast of Bullets Over BroadwayIn keeping with the growing trend of turning films into Broadway musicals, Douglas McGrath and Woody Allen’s 1994 comedy, Bullets Over Broadway, has arrived at the St. James Theatre. Director and choreographer Susan Stroman’s jukebox musical uses songs from the 20s and 30s with additional new lyrics by Glen Kelly. “Up a Lazy river,” “I’m Sitting on Top of the World,” and “Tain’t Nobody’s Biz-ness if I Do” certainly suit the time period, and most of the time the songs also suit the action. Unfortunately, the last number, “Yes! We Have No Bananas,” simply comes out of nowhere.

The cast of BULLETS OVER BROADWAY.Zach Braff stars as David Shayne, a frustrated playwright who finally gets produced only to find out he’s become involved with a bunch of mobsters. David faces many problems in his quest for success. In order to keep onboard his producer, the gangster Nick Valenti (Vincent Pastore), David has to give a part to the mobster’s girlfriend, the talentless Olive Neal (Helene York). The lead actress, a seductive alcoholic named Helen Sinclair (Marin Mazzie), lures David away from his girlfriend, Ellen (Betsy Wolfe). And worst of all, thanks to his limited writing skills, David becomes dependent on Olive’s bodyguard Cheech (Nick Cordero), who turns out to have a real flair for crafting a play.

The cast of BULLETS OVER BROADWAYDespite its promising plot, Bullets Over Broadway, even with all the glitter of William Ivey Long’s costumes and Santo Loquasto’s scenery, is fairly lackluster. The actors, for the most part, never rise above their stereotypical roles. Codero’s deadpan portrayal of Cheech, however, is extremely funny and gives the bodyguard a surprising depth. Likewise, Brooks Ashmansk, as the pudgy leading man who can’t stop eating, gets many well-deserved laughs with one of the few running gags in the show that really works.

The greatest asset is Stroman’s inventive and exuberant choreography which gives Bullets a shot in the arm whenever the action lags. Perhaps the choreography works so well because it is independent of the movie. Allen, who wrote the script, made sure his reworking is fairly close to the original. It just may be that this time the apple should have fallen a bit farther from the tree.

Zach Braff and Nick Cordero in BULLETS OVER BROADWAY.photos by Paul Kolnik

Bullets Over Broadway
St. James Theatre, 246 W 44th St.
scheduled to end on August 24, 2014
for tickets, call Telecharge
212-239-6200 or 800-432-7250
or visit www.bulletsoverbroadway.com

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