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04/19/2007


Woody Allen’s ‘Bullets Over Broadway’ Musical Starring Zach Braff Opens On Broadway: REVIEW

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BY NAVEEN KUMAR

Of the many musicals to roll off Broadway’s assembly line of popular film adaptations, the arrival of Bullets Over Broadway at the St James Theatre on April 10 seems like a natural, if not exactly foregone conclusion. Written by Woody Allen with a buoyant musical score of standards from the 20s and 30s, the production helmed and choreographed by Susan Stroman spares no expense and radiates the sort of seductive visual glamour you’d expect from its creators. But the combo of Allen’s idiosyncratic style with musical theatre makes for a strange marriage.

Bullets2716Like the 1994 film, which Allen co-wrote with Douglas McGrath, the musical tells the story of hapless playwright David Shayne (Zach Braff), who gets his new play produced on Broadway by notorious mobster Nick Valenti (Vincent Pastore) on the condition that Nick’s birdbrained girlfriend Olive (Heléne York) play a part in the show. The cast comes together to rehearse, including its vain star Helen Sinclair (Marin Mazzie), the cloying Eden Brent (Karen Ziemba) with her puppy in tow, and perpetually hungry Walter Purcell (Brooks Ashmanskas). Olive’s bodyguard Cheech (Nick Cordero) pipes in with unsolicited changes to the script, eventually becoming David’s ghostwriter.

Allen’s comedy assembles a cast of classic New York archetypes (neurotic writer, tough guy, dimwitted blonde, aging diva, etc.), and the film’s stellar ensemble achieves a sublime sort of campy-chic, balancing over-the-top performances (theatre people are so dramatic) with enough vulnerability to ground their characters. The story would seem to lend itself well to a musical, where over-the-top is par for the course.

Bullets2712Stroman’s production fares best in its beautifully choreographed musical numbers, from Cotton Club-style showgirl acts and a back-alley gangster tap dance to a hilarious chorus of singing hot dogs (yes, really). In dance she captures the fun, frenetic energy of the era, while scenic design by Santo Loquasto and costumes by William Ivey Long create a remarkable feast for the eyes.

Yet the show resists the same level of camp in dialogue as it embraces in song, feeling more often like a straightforward Broadway musical rather than a satire of one. On screen Allen’s heady dialogue vacillates between subtle and bombastic, moving at the clipped pace for which his movies are known. While the book scenes are elevated enough here to make for typical musical theatre, they rarely reach the nuanced level of parody inherent to the story.

Bullets2708In his Broadway debut, Braff’s likability does him credit, though his presence remains somewhat subdued (in his rendition of “I’m Sitting on Top of the World” the refrain “I’m just rollin’ along” is maybe a bit too apt). Ms. Mazzie and Ms. York both shine in song, while Broadway vets Ashmanskas and Ziemba make the most of their roles, though they’re mostly confined to repeating one-note bits (gluttony and a frisky pup, respectively).

As the tough guy with a mind for playwriting, Cordero emerges as the show’s clear highlight. Just as Cheech takes over writing David’s play with an ear for what works on stage, Cordero creates the sort of grounded character here that works so well in the movie. Cheech might have done wonders were he tasked with setting the tone for this show, too.

Recent theatre features...
Denzel Washington Opens in ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ On Broadway: REVIEW
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Terrence McNally’s ‘Mothers and Sons’ Starring Tyne Daly Opens On Broadway: REVIEW
New Production of ‘Les Misérables’ Opens On Broadway: REVIEW
New Musical 'Rocky' Opens On Broadway: REVIEW

Follow Naveen Kumar on Twitter: @Mr_NaveenKumar (photos:paul kolnik)


Zach Braff and Donald Faison Have a Wet Snuggle: PHOTO

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Zach Braff and Donald Faison had a cozy post-Independence Day dip: "Happy July 5th, totally straight pool snuggle day."

Zach Braff Makes Gay Party Pledge

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Writes Braff on Twitter: "Once both gay marriage and marijuana are finally legal, those of you against them are not invited to the really fun parties I'm gonna throw."


Zach Braff is Not Gay, Despite What His Old Website Says

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TMZ reports that actor Zach Braff's website was hacked with a coming out announcement.

Wrote the hackers: "I have been hiding a secret inside me for too long.  The human mind can only bare so much before it explodes in emotions, and well ... it is time to let the world know.  I am excited and proud to announce that I am an open member of the homosexual community."

Braff's rep told TMZ: "That site has been down since 2006." No link was provided to the site in question.


Mii Celebrity Talent Show

Braff Rice

One of the great things about Nintendo's Wii is its ability to customize personal avatars, called Miis, which can be dressed up with any number of rudimentary hair styles and facial features. This has lead to users designing Miis that not only look like themselves, but look like celebrities. Jason Kottke decided to hold a celebrity Mii contest and the results are in. It's not hard to guess the winner, above left, although Condi's trademark scowl is rendered perfectly in the Mii on the right. More amusing results at Kottke...

Since the Thanksgiving weekend I spent with my friends' Wii, I've since had the opportunity to try out about six more games and aside from the Wii Sports, which I love, my favorites are Madden Football, Zelda, and Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam. Feel free to leave any suggestions for other good games in the comments.

Oh, and if anybody's up for creating celebrity Wiis of the gay newsmakers (Lance, T.R., Neil Patrick, Foley, Haggard), feel free to send them along...

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