Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
Also see John's recent review of Spring Awakening
Set in 1920s New York, Bullets Over Broadway tells the story of an aspiring young playwright named David Shayne (Michael Williams), newly arrived on Broadway, who is forced to cast a mobster's talentless girlfriend in his latest drama in order to get it produced.
Michael Williams has the right boy-next-door feel for the role of Shayne. He has some good comic bits that are carefully directed and staged, so it is hard to tell how much of a natural comedian he is, but he carries the role well enough. Hannah Rose Deflumeri as girlfriend Ellen doesn't ever really convince us of her love for Shayne as they never establish strong chemistry. She does, however, show off an impressive belt with her voice in the second act.
Emma Stratton as eccentric and seductive leading lady Helen Sinclair has some delicious, scene-stealing moments filled with melodramatic acting. While nearly everything she does is an exaggeration, it all works to define a self-indulgent star of the time period. She and Jemma Jane, as Olive the talentless girlfriend of mobster Nick Valenti, are by far the strongest performers in this production. Jane gives a smashing performance reminiscent of a completely irritating Adelaide from Gus and Dolls. Michael Corvino as mobster Nick is completely unthreatening in his portrayal and a bit of a casting misfire.
Bradley Allan Zarr, who plays compulsive, over-eating actor Warner Purcell, is a strong character actor and comes off charmingly in his duet with Olive, "Let's Misbehave." Rachael Bahler misses grabbing onto strong character moments as quirky, neurotic actress Eden Brent, and really could go much bigger with her characterization. Likewise, though Jeff Brooks is good as gangster and playwright Cheech, he needs to go much broader with the role.
The costuming by William Ivey Long and choreography created by Susan Stroman are both simply sensational. Long's attention to detail, color, cut, and flow is combined with humor and intelligence. His costuming of the female dancers and Helen Sinclair is particularly enjoyable. The dancers' costumes in scene after scene are flirtatious without being vulgar, and he makes Sinclair the iconic fashion plate she should be.
Stroman's choreography is engagingly woven into musical numbers so that, even when the dancing is technically difficult, it still looks effortless. Tight group numbers exist for both leggy females and athletic males. She shows great use of layers and levels and an obvious mastery of dance styles which enhance the feel of the period. The performers dance it all with a joy and ease that is a genuine highlight of the show as a whole, and a tribute to the choreographer.
The songs inserted in this production are hit and miss as to how much they really fit into the storyline, move the plot along, or define the character and moment. "Tain't Nobody's Biz-ness If I Do" is an awkward fit for gangster Cheech and frankly, the ending song "Yes, We Have No Bananas" is a terrible choice as it doesn't have any relationship to the story at all. I suppose it is meant as a way to smilingly say "this has all been in good fun", and since fun was had, perhaps that is all that counts.
Bullets Over Broadway is largely fluff and nonsense, and though we could ask that more might have been done with such a truly clever script, it is an enjoyable evening out.
The original production of Bullets Over Broadway premiered on Broadway last season at the St. James Theatre, officially opening on April 10, 2014. The production received six Tony Award nominations, including Best Book of a Musical and Best Choreography.
Bullets Over Broadway appeared on the Marden Stage, in Dreyfoos Hall, at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts through March 27, 2016. The Kravis Center for the Performing Arts is located at 701 Okeechobee Boulevard in West Palm Beach, Florida. For tickets and/or information on their season, you may contact them by phone at 561-832-7469, (561-832-SHOW), or 1-800-572-8471or online at www.kravis.org. For more information, visit www.bulletsoverbroadwayontour.com.