WOODY ALLENS' ONLY MUSICAL VISITS TRI VALLEY REP AND THE BULLETS ARE FLYING AT THE BANKHEAD THEA
THE BAY AREA PREMIERE OF ‘BULLETS OVER BROADWAY’
OPENS TRI VALLEY REPS 34th SEASON WITH A BANG!
The bullets are flying at Tri Valley Rep this fall, the new musical BULLETS OVER BROADWAY makes its Bay Area Premiere though Nov 5th at the Bankhead stage in Livermore Ca. The gangster caper musical is based on the 1994 Woody Allen film of the same title, is filling Tri Valley Rep with song, dance, comedy and loud gunfire. It’s has a great book by Woody Allen and Douglas McGrath with more shootouts, machine guns, murder and mayhem than GUYS AND DOLLS ever came close too.
It also has romance and naughtiness, and sizzling dance numbers.This six-time Tony-nominated musical features existing hits from the 1920s, including "Let's Misbehave," “Tain't Nobody's Biz-ness If I Do" and "There's a New Day Comin'!". Tri Valley producer Kathleen Breedveld takes a risk by bringing in this musical to open the Reps 2017 - 18 season. It was a sure bet on Broadway and survived only a 100 performances opening and closing in 2014 at the St James in NY; it didn’t sell seats.
Woody Allen said that he had resisted turning the film into a musical, having no interest in it as a musical. But his sister Letty Aronson thought that it could be done as a period musical, and Allen then became interested. His sister then proposed the idea of using songs of the 1920s, "and it suddenly came to life." Besides the Marx brothers type caper - the show is designed as a dance musical. Tri Valley Producer Breedveld brought on John Miao do direct a cast of 32 local actors with a mostly a male cast to play the gang members. The hard working Kevin Hammond choreographed this romp with mostly actors who are not trained dancers. It shows in some of the more complicated fun numbers, and in the shootout tap dance and jazz dance numbers that are disappointing.
“Bullets Over Broadway” opens with the dazzling “Atta Girls” flappers doing a lively rendition of “Tiger Rag” with a cast of chorus girls who do their best to set the tone of the comedy. “BULLETS” has all the right elements of being a sold out hit. The music fits the era that includes such well known classics as “Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives to Me”, “Up A Lazy River”, “I’m Sitting On Top Of The World” and “Let’s Misbehave.” It’s a toe tapper’s delight. But without the dance talent I am not sure Woody’s classic lines “I'm still a star. I never play frumps or virgins” will hold up on the Livermore stage, but the show is fun and is a sure winner for Tri Valley fans.
Director John Maio keeps the story sassy, in-your-face kind of show about a backstage caper playwright who gets involved with folks on the wrong side of the law when they agree to finance his show. Naturally, there are gangsters, not to mention ambitious hit men, attached that make this backstage story a fun trip down an old Broadway full of snappy characters.
The dynamite Dominic Tracy plays the young playwright, David, who must feature the lead gangster's less-than-qualified girlfriend,Olive, played the terrific Suzie Shepard as part of the shady deal. Shepard is marvelous in the song “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You” along with Tracy and Jeff Seaberg who plays head thug, Valenti.
Photo's by DC Scarpelli and
The surly bodyguard Cheech (Eric Neiman) who is assigned to watch over Olive begins to make script changes that the author hates to admit, improve the show, things get even more complicated- and shenanigans erupt. Neiman as Cheech steals the first act in the number “Tain’t Nobody’s Biz-ness If I do” with his well meaning company of thugs. This is one of the numbers that suffers from weak dancing, but you still root for the boys who are doing their best.
The sensational Annmarie Martin, in the role of Diva Helen Sinclair that won Dianne Wiest an Oscar in the film version, does a solid job of portraying the ego-driven star without reverting to total caricature. Martin saves this show, she slam-dunks as she takes charge on stage in an grand performance. Martin’s splendid song “The Go Wild, Simply Wild, Over Me” fills the Bankhead theatre. The reprise is performed by local favorite Michael Sally in the role of Julian Marx, David's agent. Sally becomes the straight man in the story and is superb whenever on stage.
The sweet Madison Genovese sneaks up on a strong performance as David’s hometown sweetheart, Ellen. In the storm of all the supercharged characters around her, she scores in the second act in her song "I've Found a New Baby." with the splendid Tracy.
Olive’s poor acting charms the leading man and foodaholic Warren Purcell played by the dapper clown, Jim Rupp, for a very dangerous liaison; David’s girlfriend begins an affair with David’s best friend. The soap and sit com expand as gun fire is always in the wings. Most of the humor is broad or predictably Jewish NY angst-ridden, in standard Allen style. Maio keeps the theme focused on the importance of art versus human lives is of only mild interest, but Woody brings the story around to a darker side in the second act.
Shepard has the ditsy, talentless girlfriend Olive down perfectly, adding funny insipid comments and singing and dancing with a camp charm in over-the-top numbers like the "Hot Dog Song." She is at the forefront in making the raunchier extremes of the show hilarious Jim Rupp as Warner, her increasingly smitten love interest, joins her for a delightfully naughty "Let's Misbehave" that is one of a few "smaller" gems that charm the classic 20’s theme songs.
Big brash Christina Boothman plays supporting actress Eden Brent, a role that seems a bit underdeveloped. But Boothman gets the unique Woody stamp as she belts out her one good singing opportunity in “There’s a New Day Comin’,” and cheers to her dog Mr. Woofles played by the adorable four legged, Nessarose.
Neiman as Cheech makes the most of his mob "gorilla" with a surprising feel for theater writing. His comically ominous takes on "Up a Lazy River" and "Tain't Nobody's Biz-ness If I Do" set up the stakes for the show within the show and puts the pressure on David. Tracy plays writer David part nebbish, part nerd, he contorts his features in funny mugging as the premiere opening of his play nears. His vocals hit the mark in solo moments, including "I'm Sitting on Top of the World," and especially in duets with his polar opposite love interests Ellen and Helen.
Tap dancing gangsters include; Charles Anthony, Todd Aragon, Matt Busbee, Dominic Lessa, Mark Flolo, Mark Flores, Paul Hogarth, Britt Jensky, Jessie Annie Lukban, Bob Stratton, Kirsten Torkilson and the youngest member of the cast, Mateo Lungu. They all do their best with Hammond’s basic chorus line romps, classic jazz and tap into a slick and timeless dance numbers. But I only wonder how fun this show could be with professional dancers. Lungu and Busbee steal some of the bigger numbers including in “Running Wild!” and the boys get the most dramatic dance number in “Tain’t Nobody’s Biz-ness If I Do.”
The women’s “Atta Girls” chorus weaves through the show from kitty-costumed nightclub chorus girls to dancing bellhops as the players travel to Boston. The eye catching floozies include: Pamela Ballin, Carmen Lessa, Celeste Lococo, Amy MacKinnon, Lisa Radanowski, and perky Cierra Zimmerman, not a pro dancer in the group but that adds to the sense of movement for the fictional show on its way to the Great White Way.
The orchestra, under direction of the distinguished Sierra Dee, delivers excellent renditions of the show’s classic songs. Assistant choreographer Taci Colon along with Hammond had their work cut out for them. Producer Breedveld and Sheila Viramontes suited up the male cast in grey tone pinstripe suits and girls in the perfect 20’s glam. The leads are all colorful in flapper classic gowns and heels. Prop master Joan Brown also had a huge goal to find all the guns and warfare for the shoot outs, cigaret holders, and some amazing long hot dogs that bring that funny subtext to the “The Hot Dog Song”.
Sound designer Brendan West opens the two and half hour show with his fray of bullets as the title of the show is spelled out on the main Curtain. West hits all the gun fire cues and brings Mr Woofles all his gruff, bark and personality, while award winner Paul Vega’s lighting design brings some jazzy class to the nightclub scenes. Vega also has added that show within a show look as we watch David’s play being performed from the backstage point of view. The set for this show was a real life drama for the production team, at the last minute the rented set was a no show and Breedveld who also wears the stage manager hat - needed to pool her craft team together to make the show happen, and she did. (This was not part of the show within a show - but could have been if Woody had anything to do with it).
A fast fun joyride is just one of the reasons why BULLETS OVER BROADWAY is worth seeing. The other is that it is a handsome musical, a wild, gun shot out romp, that allows us to escape to some true Marx Brothers Woody Allen entertainment. The finale of "Yes, We Have no Bananas" brings that unconnected humor style to end the show. Next up at Tri Valley Rep is 1776 that opens the new year on January 13th, and later in 2018 the LITTLE MERMAID splashes into Livermore for a summer musical. In the meantime, leave your troubles behind and join the fun “Up A Lazy River” with the cast of BULLETS OVER BROADWAY.
Tri-Valley Repertory Theatre Presents:
BULLETS OVER BROADWAY
By Woody Allen and Douglas McGrath
Produced by Kathleen Breedveld
Director by John Maio
Vocal Director & Musical Director Sierra Dee
Choreographer Kevin Hammond
Must close November 5th 2017
Running Time 2.5 hours One intermission
PERFORMED AT THE BANKHEAD THEATER
2400 FIRST STREET, LIVERMORE, CA 94550
Tickets at https://www.trivalleyrep.org
David Shayne: Dominic Tracy, Helen Sinclair: Annmarie Martin, Cheech: Eric Neiman
Olive Neal: Suzie Shepard, Warner Purcell: Jim Rupp, Ellen: Madison Genovese
Nick Valenti: Jeff Seaberg, Eden Brent: Christina Boothman,
and Julian Marx: Michael Sally
Pamela Ballin, Carmen Lessa, Celeste Lococo, Amy MacKinnon, Lisa Radanowski,
Cierra Zimmerman, Charles Anthony, Todd Aragon, Matt Busbee, Dominic Lessa
Mark Flolo, Mark Flores, Paul Hogarth, Britt Jensky, Jessie Annie Lukban, Mateo Lungu, Bob Stratton, and Kirsten Torkilson