Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
Broadway Bounty Hunter
Joe Iconis wrote music and lyrics for this show with book collaborators Lance Rubin and Jason SweetTooth Williams. I wasn't much of a fan of blaxploitation films, a genre which catapulted black performers into prominent movie roles. Still, they were stereotypes which sometimes portrayed African-American protagonists as demeaning to women, oppositional to white people and so on. Sounds were loud and funky. This musical, however, presents the caring, giving, thoughtful Lazarus (Alan H. Green) as a positive model.
Annie, searching for work and certain her husband drowned a decade earlier, finds herself attempting to snare a drug lord, Mac Roundtree (Jeff McCarthy), in Venezuela. Additionally, the creators of Broadway Bounty Hunter toss in the character of Shiro Jin (Scott Watanabe), who brings the martial arts/chop-socky element into the wild mix.
Annie Golden is nothing short of endearing. During the first part of the show, amid the band's jazzy funk and rhythm and blues, she carries a tattered out-of-date headshot photo to New York City auditions. Annie hopes, somehow, to find herself back in a show. The very first number of the show, "Woman of a Certain Age," with Street Singer (Badia Farha) sharing vocal lead, is one of its best. The song is reprised a couple of hours later at the end of the second act. Sweet Annie also carries with her a star, an award she received long before. It is the Kung Fu expert Shiro Jin who is the catalyst as Annie and Lazarus try to find Mac Roundtree. During its second act, the plot turns surprising. Highlight tunes include "Ain't No Thing," performed twice, and "Veins," a winner midway through the final portion of the production.
Active contributors fueling this zap of energy show include Charlie Rosen, who supervises music and orchestrations, and Joel Waggoner, the music director and also vocal arranger. Six musicians provide a bold, suitably vibrating pulse. Jeffrey Page, the choreographer, makes the most of movement opportunities. Bobby Frederick Tilley's costumes are bright and catchy (see drug lord Roundtree's three piece white get-up).
Julianne Boyd needed to step in late during the rehearsal process to direct the show. She scores on several levels. As BSC artistic leader, it was she who took the leap to bring in atypical entertainment. Face it: there's some risk involved. Next, working with the actors for a short period, Boyd assists with the injection of energy which helps to mark Broadway Bounty Hunter as singular. Well done.
All of this cannot be accomplished without an extraordinary contingent of actors who bring huge doses of zeal and animation to the project. Golden as Golden is touching and genuine. It is impossible not to feel for her. The versatile McCarthy is splendid. Alan H. Green garners sympathy with his portrayal of Lazarus. Badia Farha, in multiple roles, presents varied and persuasive talents. The ensemble actors, too, are top level. While the show has been workshopped elsewhere, It feels like it might still be formative.
Without watching it two or three times, I hesitate to say more other than this: the performers are oftentimes stationed in or moving through theater aisles. That works but might be modified or adjusted or edited. In all, this musical play is obvious satire, tongue-in-cheek or cheeky, but blaring and glaring at the same time. It is, at its best, a delightfully campy piece.
Broadway Bounty Hunter continues on the St. Germain Stage in Pittsfield, Massachusetts through September 4th, 2016, as part of Barrington Stage Company's summer season. For tickets, call (413) 236-8888 or visit BarringtonStageCo.org.