Orange County Theatre Reviews

Written by Daniella Litvak 

The term jukebox musical is used to describe a musical that features popular songs from the past. Shows like Mama Mia and Rock of Ages are popular examples. Bullets Over Broadway belongs to the jukebox musical category too. Reaching a little further back into musical history than the aforementioned examples, the show features songs from the 1910s to the 1930s. These are not exactly the songs you would envision yourself head banging to, but the musical numbers are most definitely energetic and vibrant.

Bullets Over Broadway is set in 1920s New York City, naturally. Playwright David Shanye (Alex Bodrero) finally gets the chance to direct one of his own plays on Broadway. His hopes of having total artistic control are quickly proven to be delusional when he learns his backers are mobsters. One of the demands put upon David is the casting of the head mobster’s girlfriend, Olive Neal (Nicole Cassesso), in one of the leading roles. David also has to contend with the rest of the cast’s egos and eccentricities. Lots of shenanigans ensue.

A common criticism of jukebox musicals is that the story often feels like an afterthought used as an excuse to cram in as many, increasingly outlandish, musical numbers as possible. To some extent Bullets Over Broadway falls into that trap. It is a shame because the show does present an interesting philosophical question to explore. The show is at its best when it digs into it, but it takes too long to do so, choosing instead to focus on less interesting subplots and antics.

Not helping is the fact the characters exist solely to be punchlines. Are the characters entertaining —yes. Do they have any depth and nuance to them? One maybe two characters do, the rest are forced into doing variations of the same gag over and over again. There really isn’t anyone to root for either.      

The acting is what saves the characters and keeps your attention. Except for some muffled singing at the beginning, the performances are strong across the board. Nearly ever cast member gets the opportunity to shine and really strut their stuff.

Robert Edward as Cheech —the mobster who gets really invested in David’s play —is the scene stealer. Cheech is the most interesting character in Bullets Over Broadway, and Edward’s performance really sells it. He manages to make Cheech menacing yet earnest —almost to the point of being a geek about it—in his burgeoning passion for the arts.

The costumes are another high point. The fact the show can feature 220 costumes is an achievement in its own right. Costume designer Larry Watts does a terrific job in dressing the cast in a variety of different outfits ranging from elegant to ridiculous (in a delightful way). The costumes bring a lot of color and sparkle to the stage. It is also nice to see the show take advantage of how costumes can inject a lot more humor into a show.

 Feb 22, 2018 – Sunday Mar 18, 2018

Good Show

8.2 Overall
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