‘Bul­lets Over Broad­way’ is a ma­jor mis­fire

The Woody Allen mu­si­cal has more fiz­zle than siz­zle

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - Showtime - South Broward - - ON STAGE - By Chris­tine Dolen

Woody Allen’s ef­fer­ves­cent 1994 movie “Bul­lets Over Broad­way” scored big with the Academy Awards crowd, win­ning a best sup­port­ing ac­tress Os­car for Dianne Wi­est and six more nom­i­na­tions, in­clud­ing one for the Allen- Dou­glas McGrath screen­play.

So it was hardly a stretch when some of the bright­est tal­ents on Broad­way, where movies are reg­u­larly re­born as mu­si­cals, took a stab at the story of a strug­gling play­wright who gets tan­gled up with a mob­ster and his un­tal­ented girl­friend.

The re­sult? Some glit­ter­ing, en­ter­tain­ing mo­ments, but over­all more fiz­zle than siz­zle.

The tour­ing ver­sion of the 2014 mu­si­cal, which has a book by Allen and a score made up of vin­tage Jazz Age songs, fea­tures a tal­ented cast that works very hard to sell the kind of show-biz magic that Tony Award­win­ning di­rec­tor-chore­og­ra­pher Su­san Stro­man pulled off far bet­ter in “The Pro­duc­ers.” Still, “Bul­lets” seems to slay the en­thu­si­as­tic au­di­ence at the Kravis Cen­ter, where the show runs through Sun­day.

With Jeff Whiting recre­at­ing Stro­man’s di­rec­tion and Clare Cook her in­ven­tive chore­og­ra­phy, “Bul­lets Over Broad­way” fol­lows the tra­vails of Pitts­burgh-born play­wright David Shayne (Michael Wil­liams) as he tries to crack the Great White Way in 1929.

Pro­ducer Ju­lian Marx (Rick Grossman) finds a tar­nished “an­gel” in the per­son of Nick Valenti (Michael Corvino), a mob­ster who agrees to fully fi­nance a Broad­way run for David’s “God of Our Fa­thers.” But Nick’s largesse comes at a price: David must agree to cast the gang­ster’s cho­rus girl squeeze, Olive (Jemma Jane), in a ma­jor role. Sure, she’s a bleached-blond bomb­shell, but she’s also stri­dent, a ter­ri­ble ac­tress, de­mand­ing and dumb (other than that, she’s a charmer).

As it pro­gresses to­ward its out-of-town try­out in Bos­ton and its open­ing on what pro­ducer Marx calls “Broad­WAY,” David’s show gets se­cret rewrites by Cheech (Jeff Brooks), a mob­ster as­signed by Nick to keep Olive from get­ting too friendly with her male cast mates. Inevitably, ro­man­tic com­pli­ca­tions en­sue.

Olive gets flirty with lead­ing man Warner Pur­cell (Bradley Allen Zarr), whose glut­tony gets him to blimp ter­ri­tory by open­ing night on Broad­way. And mar­riage-pho­bic David, who has a lovely girl­friend named Ellen (Han­nah Rose DeFlumeri), falls un­der the spell of lead­ing lady He­len Sin­clair (Emma Strat­ton), a Norma Des­mond-like diva who gets her way con­ver­sa­tion­ally by press­ing her fin­gers to the other per­son’s lips and ut­ter­ing a sul­try, “Don’t speak.”

Allen’s book is sur­pris­ingly clichéd, rarely truly funny and for the most part lack­ing in the zingers that a Woody Allen fan can rec­og­nize even hear­ing them for the first time. “Broad” doesn’t be­gin to de­scribe the show’s weak script.

Some dandy songs, in­clud­ing “Up a Lazy River,” “Let’s Mis­be­have” and “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good to You,” give the tal­ented cast a chance to shine vo­cally, and Stro­man’s whiz-bang chore­og­ra­phy is crazily cre­ative (tap- danc­ing mob­sters, any­one?). But the misses are cringe-in­duc­ing, most no­tably “The Hot Dog Song,” which makes you long for the dou­ble en­ten­dre fi­nesse of Bessie Smith.

Ku­dos to the show’s hard­work­ing ac­tors, who look swell in Wil­liam Ivey Long’s gor­geous cos­tumes. Jane makes Olive ev­ery inch as an­noy­ing as the char­ac­ter is sup­posed to be, and Corvino’s rich voice makes you wish Nick sang more of­ten. Brooks is sly and lik­able as Cheech. Strat­ton is ul­trathe­atri­cal as He­len. DeFlumeri is a most ap­peal­ing Ellen, par­tic­u­larly when she turns the ta­bles on her cheat­ing boyfriend. As David, Wil­liams is low-key and usu­ally flus­tered, the least vi­brant fig­ure in a mu­si­cal over­loaded with colorful char­ac­ters.

In “Bul­lets Over Broad­way,” the mob guys don’t miss, whether they’re hoof­ing or tak­ing out a vic­tim. The same can’t be said of this movie-turned-mu­si­cal.

“Bul­lets Over Broad­way: The Mu­si­cal” will play through Sun­day at the Kravis Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts, 701 Okee­chobee Blvd., in West Palm Beach. Show­times are 8 p.m. through Satur­day, with 2 p.m. mati­nees Satur­day and Sun­day. Tick­ets cost $26-$76. To or­der, call 561-832-7469 or go to Kravis.org.

MATTHEW MUR­PHY/COUR­TESY

The wise guys shoot and tap-dance in "Bul­lets Over Broad­way" at the Kravis Cen­ter.

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