PPAC’s Bullets Over Broadway Shoots Blanks

 

Bullets Over Broadway is a simply horrible musical. Woody Allen wrote the book, which was based on his screenplay for the 1994 motion picture. I did not see the movie, but could it have been this witless? Nearly all of Allen’s jokes fall flat and almost every character is an overplayed fool.

David Shayne (Michael Williams) is a playwright who is forced to cast a ditzy tramp named Olive in his show in order to get financial backing from Nick Valenti, a mobster. Olive (Jemma Jane) has a high-pitched squeally voice, which is the equivalent of nails on a chalkboard. Her act gets tired very quickly. Other major characters include Helen Sinclair (Emma Stratton), a legendary grande dame who David falls in love with, Cheech (Jeff Brooks), a brutal thug, and Warner Purcell (Bradley Allan Zarr), an effete windbag. All these performers try their best, but they weren’t able to redeem this stale material. The script drags on endlessly and no amount of glitz can compensate for a lackluster story. There’s just no reason to care about any of these people.

One of the low points of the show, and maybe in all musical theater, involves dancing hot dogs and crass sexual innuendo about a particular part of the male anatomy. It is crude, unfunny and embarrassing. There were some minor pleasures, however, including a dance number involving the gangsters. The choreography was quite impressive. I enjoyed William Ivey Long’s gorgeous costumes, which recreated the fashions of the 1920s, and I liked the look of a train car, which figured in some of the key scenes.

Bullets Over Broadway is a glamorous and good-looking show, but when it comes to giving an audience a good time, it shoots nothing but blanks.

Bullets Over Broadway runs through Sunday. Providence Performing Arts Center. 220 Weybosset St, Providence. For tickets, call 401-421-2787. ppacri.org.

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