Tuesday November 21st 2017

“Bullets Over Broadway”

Attending an opening night, where the audience is filled with family members of the cast and production people, and the Board of Directors of the theater company, often makes it difficult to see a true picture. Let’s face it- family and friends often force laughter or laugh at something that means something to them, rather than the play. The people behind the scenes do likewise. Tonight may have been just one of those nights, as Nightblue Theatre presented “Bullets Over Broadway”, the musical version of the film of the same name written by Woody Allen  and Douglas McGrath. McGrath was not involved with the musical version, and to be honest, the musical numbers that make up this play are the works of the composers of the period in which it takes place , the “Roaring 20’s”! Names like Cole Porter, Hoagy Carmichael featuring songs such as ” Tiger Rag”, “Up a Lazy River”, “She’s Funny That Way”, “I’m Sitting On Top Of The World” and many others.

Under the direction and choreography of Kevin Bellie  this production has some powerful dance numbers ( some great tap dancing which to me always adds something special to a musical), but the stage at  Stage 773 , despite a unique set designed by Bob Knuth, just doesn’t seem large enough to make the dance numbers shine as they ought to. I will say that Belie has put together a solid ensemble of performers, but they do not “fit” and in some cases their characters have no chemistry with the others.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Woody Allen dark comedy, the story is about a playwright, one David Shayne (Cody Ellsworth) who cannot get backing for his play. His agent, Julian Marx (Nick Cuellar) does find the money source, but there is a hitch. The financier is one  Nick Valenti (Tim Green ) a gangster. He has a girlfriend, a stripper, who he has promised would one day be a star! How can he do this for her when she is in his mind “talentless”? Put up money for a show! That is the hitch. Shayne MUST use Olive Neal ( an adorable version of the character by Rachel Juncker).

In order for Valenti to feel comfortable with his “doll” being with “actors”, he sends one of his henchmen, Cheech ( Jonathan Rivera, who is quite the tap dancer and has a reasonably decent voice ) to be her protector. While he is not happy, it turns out that he has a true ear for the arts and comes up with ideas that the actors love, making the play much better. As they rehearse and he slips changes to Shayne, the play improves and in his mind, becomes his, not Shaynes. I do not want to give much more away on this sub-plot, but Cheech hits a point where he feels that they must make changes despite what might be in store for them if they do!

There are lots of sub-plots in this one. David’s fiancée,  Ellen ( deftly handled by Maddy Kelly- she has a powerful voice and range) and their romance, plus her affair and then back to David. David also falls in love with the star of his (or should I say Cheech’s show), Helen Sinclair ( Monica Szaflik is stunningly attractive). The other actor in the play- within -a -play is  Warner  Purcell (played by Jack Wright who also does some quick changes to join the ensemble) who has a love of food and Bellie, plays it for all he can. Amanda Farmer handles the comic role of Eden Brent to perfection and the other ensemble members do a solid job:  David Gallo, Maddie Brunner, Marcus Boni,  Anna Backer, Joseph Kuchey, Molly Le Captain, Shawn Quinlan and Sophia Vitello. Bravo kids on a solid effort!

This theater company celebrating ten years of productions should be proud of being the first to be able to do this show (other than a touring company) and while the stage limits them to production numbers and perhaps some of the talent is not in the right role, they do entertain the audience and give them their money’s worth. Theater is entertainment and this is affordable LIVE theater! The costumes (David E. Walters), lighting ( Dustin L. Derry), sound (Keegan Bradac) and wigs ( JoAnn Robertson) all did  a lot to make this production look good and a tip of my hat to the props person, Paul Packer and costumers who helped make the quick changes,  Anna and JoAnn Robertson.

The music adaptation and added lyrics (to personalize the songs) was done by Glen Kelly. The band was composed of Anthony Scandora (Percussion), Ryan Hobbs (trumpet), Ashley Fitzwater (violin) , Anthony Rodriguez (reed) and Carolyn Brady Riley (keys). They never allowed their music to overpower, making the show much more enjoyable.

“Bullets Over Broadway” will continue thru October 8th with performances as follows:

Thursdays  7:30 p.m.

Fridays  8:00 p.m.

Saturdays   8:00 p.m.

Sundays  2:30 p.m. except on October 8th where it will be at 1 p.m.

Tickets are $35 General admission   $30 senior and $27 students

To purchase tickets visit the box office located at 1225 West Belmont, call 1-773-327-5252 or visit www.stage773.com

Parking is available on the street, some metered, some not- read the info on the boxes. Valet parking is available and I believe if you dine at Kubo ( a new dining spot in the area across the street, you can park in their lot)

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Bullets Over Broadway”.

 

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