Fresh off a night spent watching “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and explaining to my eight-year-old the reasons why one should choose the light side versus the dark one, I suddenly found myself buying his kid logic that the bad guys simply have more fun while watching Cheech and his thug gangsters perform “’Taint Nobody’s Business If I Do” from Bullets Over Broadway – The Musical. Who can watch a stage full of tap dancing brutes wearing three-piece suits performing mind boggling step ball changes, stag leaps, barrel rolls and shuffles and not at least consider joining the dark side?
The musical, derived from the 1994 Woody Allen film that shares the same name and stars John Cusack and Dianne Wiest, is directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman. Set in New York City in 1929, a neophyte playwright, David Shayne, (Michael Williams) writes a mediocre play that mob boss, Nick Valenti, (Michael Corvino) bankrolls with the condition that his truly talentless girlfriend, Olive Neal, (Jemma Jane), is awarded a role. When the gangster bodyguard, Cheech, (Jeff Brooks) begins offering credible rewrite suggestions, Shayne starts taking all of his ideas and soon Cheech is calling the play his own and Shayne is trapped along the slippery slope of idealism and fame. The leading female role of an alcoholic theatre diva, Helen Sinclair, (Emma Stratton) pays tribute to the ladies of the silver screen and she takes it to the extreme with exaggerated speeches and scenes where she says cheers while sipping “lighter fluid.”
Other stereotypes represented include a food-addicted leading actor, Warner Purcell, (Bradley Allan Zarr) who boisterously eats his way through cheese danishes and by the end of the production has ballooned to a ridiculous size. A pig-Latin speaking oddball character, Eden Brent, (Rachel Bahler) frets about her dog making his psychiatric appointments and there are showgirls galore, colorfully costumed and trained to fulfill the eye candy quota.
By far, the brooding Cheech steals the show with his powerful voice in numbers such as “Up a Lazy River, “Tiger Rag,” and “There’ll Be Some Changes Made.” In this over-the-top production, he sways the audience (or at least me) into rooting for the darkness. And it “’Taint Nobody’s Bizness If I Do.”
Bullets Over Broadway just wrapped up at Broadway at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts in Houston, TX, but you’ll definitely want to catch shows lined up this season.