If you like Woody Allen shows you’ll love “Bullets Over Broadway – The Musical” playing at The Private Bank Theatre now through May 1, 2016. “As the title might suggest, “Bullets” is a funny take on 1920s gangster activities mixed with a show biz need to find backers for a Broadway production.
It features overblown, stereotyped characters that range from a nerdy, clueless playwright (a popular Allen persona) paired with a wholesome, hometown girlfriend to a mob leader’s over-the-top bubble-head moll and a Hollywood-type diva whom audiences and guys adore.
Allen’s surprise element in this show (and he does like inserting surprises) is a mob member who can write plays better than the playwright because he understands human desires.
If the title sounds familiar it’s because this stage show is a new Woody Allen version of the screenplay he and Douglas MaGrath wrote for a 1994 move starring John Cusack and Dianne Wiest.
One has to believe that some of the musical’s characters such as the moll, the diva and the playwright, are played as caricatures partially because of the book and partially due to direction. So “Bullets,” really borders on farce. Playing to the farce genre is a second act scene where some of the gangsters run across the stage while the actors are trying to perform to a Broadway audience.
Of the more seriously played characters, Jeff Brooks is excellent as the gangster whose suggestions turn the original, ho hum play into a hit and Hannah Rose Deflumeri’s delivery as Ellen in “Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives to Me” and “I’ve Found a New Baby” are show stoppers.
As to the music, some of it will sound familiar while other pieces have strange titles. That’s because even though “Bullets” is called a musical its songs are not original. They are taken from existing 1920s and 30s pieces.
The show’s premise of putting a producer’s untalented girlfriend into a production where she doesn’t belong has been done before but this one has a new twist. Little excuse can be found for adding stupid hot-dog jokes in the first act and “yes We Have No Bananas” in the finale. They don’t further the plot or add anything to the show.
On the surface, Bullets” centers on a playwright having to compromise his ideals of not allowing anyone to touch his masterpiece and not wanting to bow to questionable dealings to finance the production. However, by the show’s end there is the deeper meaning of what is important in life and rethinking one’s objectives.
But what gives the show the necessary oomph to get audiences applauding is Susan Stroman’s fabulous choreography that is well executed by the show girls and gangsters. A particularly appealing number is “T’aint Nobody’s Bizness If I Do” danced and sung by Cheech and his gangster buddies. The choreography has been recreated by Clare Cook. Another plus is fine period costume design by William Ivey Long and creative set design by Jason Ardizzone-West.
The show premiered on Broadway in March 2014 where it received six Tony Award nominations.
“Bullets Over Broadway – The Musical,” is at The Private Bank Theatre, 18 W. Monroe st, Chicago, Il. For tickets call 800-775-2000 and visit Broadway In Chicago.