Photo Courtesy of Nederlander / Pantages Theatre

Hit and miss. That’s my relationship with Woody Allen’s work; hit and miss. When he’s funny, when he’s on, either as an entertainer or a director, he’s very, very on. On my list of favorites of mine from Allen is Bullets Over Broadway; a campy film that tells Allen’s tale over and over again; young, insecure nebbish guy, glitzy girl, improbable situations, irony and satire galore it’s one of his best.

It’s because of the strength of the source material it seemed a shoe-in for a full-blown Broadway success as a musical especially with Allen writing the play’s book, Marvin Hamlisch and Craig Carneila doing the original music and score. A majority of music for the play would be period era pieces that existed already, allegedly a recommendation from Allen’s sister, Letty Aronson. Susan Stroman was brought in to help bring that to life and bam! In 2014 a new musical was brought to Broadway’s St. James Theatre.

Reviews for it were like any other Allen work; mixed. Some got it; some didn’t. It received six Tony and Drama Desk nominations and now the tour is taking the U.S. by storm.

New musical theatre doesn’t happen that often or easily. It takes a lot of money, from 10 million on up, to launch a full blown production. Bullets doesn’t feel like new theatre, since it’s a period piece set in the 20s or 30s and uses music of that era. Songs like “Tiger Rag” or “Up A Lazy River” populate the score.

And that’s the problem some people have; the songs don’t necessarily have something to do with real plot progression, they’re there because Allen wanted them to be. Would I close my show with “Yes, We Have No Bananas?” Probably not, but I’m not Allen. And oddly enough, it worked in a big way.


Jeffrey Brooks and Ensemble Courtesy Nederlaner / Pantages

And that’s why so much of this musical works, because of Allen, and the stellar performances of every single member from Jemma Jane’s scene gobbling Olive Neal to Jeffrey Brooks’ show stopping number as Cheech this play has a great cast.

And the material lets them camp it up. The story of a young playwright trying to get a hit whose play gets financed by the mob, falls in love with a Diva, falls out of love with a Diva, loves his girlfriend, leaves his girlfriend, reconciles with his girlfriend all plays out in grand fashion. Each cast member is given time to shine from Michael Shayne as our lead to Emma Straiton’s Helen Sinclaire, THE diva, this is a total ensemble with each supporting the other and thus the play.


Wait! Don’t! Speak! Still has it in Bullets Over Broadway at the Pantages Photo courtesy Nederlander Pantages

And at times the play needs a little support because you see, not every single minute hits, again, like Allen, but the story overall combined with the talent and exuberance of the cast and the strength of the source material make it a new musical success, a night of musical theatre with enough laugh out louds and chuckles on the way home to make it the hit for which the play’s protagonist was hoping. It’s funny, quirky, bawdy yet shy, it’s Allen, it’s music, it’s Broadway. He’s captured enough of the magic to give a talented cast the ingredients to forge a hit a a new musical theatre entry that should tour for years to come.

Through January 24 at Pantages Theater Hollywood.

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