Monday, March 31, 2014

Bullets over Broadway ***

Woody Allen's musicalization of his 1994 film, now in previews at the St. James Theatre, provides a consistently entertaining, if not inspired, evening. Susan Stroman's choreography and direction add significantly to the show's strengths, but her collaboration with Allen does not lead to the giddy heights of her work with Mel Brooks. The decision to use popular songs of the 20's instead of an original score works out surprisingly well, with many songs fitting into the plot in clever unexpected ways. Best of all is the strong cast, particularly Marin Mazzie as Helen Sinclair, Nick Cordero as Cheech, Helene Yorke as Olive Neal and Brooks Ashmanskas as Walter Purcell. Zach Braff was out, so I got his understudy Andy Jones as David Shayne. Jones was fine in a vanilla way, but unfortunately looked at least 10 years younger than Betsy Wolfe, his love interest Ellen. Karen Ziemba makes the most of her one number. Santo Loquasto's sets and William Ivey Long's costumes are the best that money can buy. The show moves along at a rapid clip and rarely sags. I was a bit disappointed in the finale, which somehow seemed less than the rousing conclusion the show needed, but I had a good time. Running time: 2 hours, 25 minutes including intermission.

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