Magazine article Variety

Woody's 'Bullets' Don't Hit All Their Targets

Magazine article Variety

Woody's 'Bullets' Don't Hit All Their Targets

Article excerpt

Woody's 'Bullets' Don't Hit All Their Targets

Bullets Over Broadway

St. James Theater; 1,629 sets; $147 top.

Playwright: Woody Allen

Starrlng: Brooks Ashmanskas, Zach Braff, Nick Cordero, Marin Mazzie

Everyone hoped "Bullets Over Broadway" would be the show to get those flickering Broadway lights blazing again. In certain wonderful ways - Susan Stroman's happy-tappy dance rhythms, the dazzling design work on everything from proscenium curtain to wigs, and a fabulous chorus line of dancing dolls, molls and gangsters - Woody Allen's showbiz musical is the answer to a Broadway tinhorn's prayer. Surprisingly, though, the book (from Alien's own 1994 screenplay) is feeble on laughs, and certain key performers don't seem comfortable navigating the earthy comic idiom of burlesque. So, let's call it close, but no cigar.

"Bullets" is that rarity, a musical without an original score. But the two dozen vintage songs culled from the Tin Pan Alley archives to fit the 1920s timeframe have been chosen with as much intelligence as affection.

That old Dixieland floor-stomper, "Tiger Rag," opens the show with a joyful blast, as the Atta-Girls, a line of chorines in barely there tiger costumes (by the inimitable William Ivey Long), strut their stuff at Nick's Club. And how sweet it is to hear Nick Valenti, the boss gangster played by Vincent Pastore (Big Pussy of "The Sopranos" fame) croaking Andy Razaf's sexy lyrics to "Gee Baby, Ain't I Good to You" to Olive (Helene Yorke), the chippy gold digger nagging him to make her a Broadway star.

But, oh, man, we're already running into trouble with Yorke ("Masters of Sex"), who looks like a Kewpie doll (did we mention that William Ivey Long did the costumes?), but whose ear-splitting shrieks and squeals are a dead giveaway that she hasn't a clue about the inherently selfish infantilism that makes girls like Olive so devastatingly sexy to powerful old guys with pots of money.

Another casting miscall surfaces when Nick, looking for a play (like "Macbeth") to buy for Olive, latches onto David Shayne (Zach Braff), a boho playwright who thinks he's written a masterpiece and won't have it ruined by philistines like directors and actors. Braff delivers the narcissism, but his boyish appeal isn't able to translate into charm.

But the face and the voice that should be driving "Bullets" belong to Marin Mazzie as Helen Sinclair, the dramatic actress with the big name who stars in David's show, and cunningly tries to seduce him into expanding her role. …

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