Photo by Don Kellogg

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Bullets Over Broadway

I was moderately entertained.  Indeed, I was.  However, knowing what I know, I feel a bit cheated.  If I didn't know any better (as most of the out-of-towners who attend these sorts of big productions), I guess nothing would seem to of place.  In his new musical this season, Woody Allen chose to not create any original music for the stage adaptation of his film by the same name.  Seems odd to me.  Such a prolific and arguably successful director, actor, and writer - why would he omit such a core ingredient from a new "musical".  Oh yes, there was music, but it was all existing and just carefully selected, recycled, re-arranged, and plopped into the story.   It frankly hit a sour note in my book.  That aside, the music chosen seemed stylistically appropriate.  Nothing too bad.  Just not original.  Not fresh.

If music were the only problem with the show, I'd be inclined to overlook the issue mostly.  However, when you combine it with the problem of casting - Houston, we've got a problem.  Don't get me wrong, Zach Braff turned in a decent performance and I can honestly say that even for a Wednesday evening performance (after a matinee) it seemed he gave it his all.  But it just wasn't enough.  His character, playwright David Shayne, cries out for a performance by none other than the goof-ball Matthew Broderick.  The entire performance, from beginning to end, was delightful, but not excellent.  It was as if Zach himself invested in the show, so they felt obliged to give him the lead over much more appropriate choices (you'll get the reference once you see the show).  I don't really even know if the part was even offered to Mr. Broderick, but it certainly seemed to me that it should have been.

Nick Cordero turned in a tortured and hysterical performance as Cheech the gangster with a penchant for writing - including one steal-the-show number.  Vincent Pastore may have appeared as goomba Johnny on The Sopranos, but his stage presence is about as engaging and entertaining as a wet sponge.  Marin Mazzie's (Helen Sinclair) star power out-shinned just about everyone else in the production except, perhaps, for Karen Ziemba, whose talents seemed utterly wasted on Eden Brent, the adorable dog-carrying actress to whom that had to give a solo number in Act II just to make sure she didn't quit.   Helene Yorke (Olive) turned in a great performance, but once again, you felt the part was perhaps written for someone else - maybe, let's speculate, Katie Finneran.  Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't.  The show had a spectacular chorus of male dancers (think gangsters) and female dancers (think The Rockettes) both sets of whom dazzled throughout the entire show.

Uneven casting and poor choices by Woody with respect to music detract from what would otherwise have been another smash hit just like The Producers.  Maybe next time Ms. Stroman.  Given these challenges, this show is destined for mediocrity.