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Woody Allen scores Big Time with Bullets over Broadway, on and off stage

The cast, dodging bullets but not critics
The cast, dodging bullets but not critics
Author's collection

Bullets Over Broadway

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The idea isn't new: a mobster backs a Broadway show for his Cutie of the Week to star in, and chaos ensues. Woody Allen complicated this plot by having the mobster's henchman put in charge of watching out for the Cutie's best interest, help with the writing and the discovery, as well as self-discovery, that follows when it becomes apparent that the henchman is better at writing shows than the playwright. Called Bullets over Broadway, the film was released in 1995, and won an Oscar for Diana Weist.
Almost 20 years later Woody Allen, after an absence from Broadway for over three decades (with the exception of a one act contribution to Relatively Speaking, in 2011, an ominously prophetic title for Mr. Allen) decided it what be a nifty Broadway musical. And nifty, indeed, is the original Broadway cast CD.
Now, there is a relatively new species of musical on the Great White Way referred to as "The Juke Box Musical." Basically, this means no one has to pay a composer or lyricist, but the music is from another source. Bob Fosse did it with Big Deal in 1986, and sometimes, like with Mamma Mia! or Jersey Boys, there is a single source for the music, and sometimes not. The concept meets with varying approval, but it all comes down to whether a show is good or not. With Bullets over Broadway, we are not only in the "Good" department, but we are very close to the "Spectacularly Great."
One of the most forgotten men in musical theatre is the orchestrator, followed closely by the man who has the title dance arranger, which means he writes, or adapts, the dance music. Glenn Kelly has toiled successfully in these thankless fields since Dance a Little Closer in 1983. Here, in Bullets Over Broadway, he has Music Supervision, Adaptation, and additional lyric credit. And class shows. And this time, the orchestrations are by Doug Besterman, with credits going back to the 1994 Damn Yankees, with Jerry Lewis. And the show is directed and choreographed by Susan Strohman, three Tonys and some dozen or more Boradway smashes. Let's just say we're in real good company here, and move on.
And now, on the CD, we have the best of Broadway performers, the likes of Zach Braff, Marin Mazzie, Vincent Pastore and Karen Ziemba ripping through some of the great standards as well as much more obscure numbers of the twenties and thirties. Well known pieces such as "Tiger Rag", "Up a Lazy River", "Let's Misbehave", and "She's Funny that Way" are mixed with some marvelous obscure gems such as "Gee, Baby, Ain't I Good to You", "There's a New Day Commin'" and the wonderful "I Ain't Gonna Play No Second Fiddle." And we must not forget the classic, "Yes, We Have No Bananas".
The CD is a spectacular trip down memory lane, old friends and new, sung delightfully and presented beautifully for hard core fans as well as just us kids who enjoy a good tune. This is a recording that will sit in your "active" pile for years to come.