PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: Bullets Over Broadway—Guys and Dorks

By Harry Haun
11 Apr 2014

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Marin Mazzie
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Douglas McGrath, who co-wrote the Oscar-nominated 1994 screenplay for "Bullets" with Allen—and could wind up his Tony competitor this year (for Beautiful), embraced the new musicalization: "It lends itself to it because it's big, colorful and comical. It's set in the world of theatre, so it makes sense that it could be a musical."

McGrath is switching mediums for a while, "doing a pilot for HBO. It doesn't have a title yet. It does have a subject, but I'm not supposed to discuss it. Isn't that terrible?" Dianne Wiest also thought the film transitioned into a vintage musical quite nicely. "If I had not been in the movie"—and she, Oscar-winningly, was—"I would have thought it had always been a musical. It doesn't seem like it was ever anything else."

She just did a reading of "a wonderful new play" called Rasheeda Speaking and hopes to do it next year for The New Group, with Cynthia Nixon debut-directing.

Bullets is about the wising-up of an innocent, dorky playwright knee-deep in artistic pretentions but brought crashing to earth by alien hoodlums.

Not only must he endure the antics of a talent-free actress foisted on him by his mobster producer, but he must also take notes from her bodyguard, who is more proficient at making other kinds of hits and who, somehow, humiliatingly, is better at making theatre. Not quite as deadly but just as deforming is the fading, desperate star who shamelessly vamps a bigger and better role out of the hapless hack.

Properly tuned up for his musical-comedy (and Broadway) debut, Zach Braff makes the ideal Woody Allen facsimile in this lead role. "I have to be the straight man to a lot of insane people—I'm like the spindle on which all these crazies spin—and that's fun for me because, on 'Scrubs,' I was often the broad guy. Getting to say Woody's words makes you just feel like you're the most quick-witted person in the world.

"I love this character. My favorite moment is singing 'I've Found a New Baby' with Betsy Wolfe. I just think that number's great. As a fan of the classic Broadway belter, I get to sit in the front row and watch that girl hit those notes every night. It takes everything I have not to clap along with the audience."

The newness is still new to him. "All the time, I find myself thinking, 'Are we dreaming?' This is where Hello, Dolly! opened. This is where Oklahoma! opened. And we're standing on the stage looking out. For a kid from New Jersey who grew up going to musicals, I can't believe that I'm actually involved in something so epic."

Of all his characters, Allen said Braff's character was more developed in the musical than the movie. "In the movie, he was played by the great John Cusack, an actor who played it perfectly, but he didn't have songs to sing, and by giving Zach some songs to sing, his character was built up and enriched tremendously by them."