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

By Harry Haun
11 Apr 2014

Buy this Limited Collector's Edition

Most of the show's scenery-chewing is confined to that devouring theatrical man-trap named Helen Sinclair, whose "Don't speak" demurring spoke Oscar-winning volumes for Dianne Wiest in the movie. Here. she's manned by the amazing Marin Mazzie, who washes it all down with lighter fluid or, in a pinch, paint remover.

"Dianne came Saturday matinee to my dressing room," she said. I started crying, and she started crying, and we just hugged each other. She said to me tonight, 'I didn't think you could be better than you were Saturday.' She's a beautiful woman, and she's an extraordinary actress. She's an idol of mine, and it was a thrill to meet her."

"There's a Broken Heart for Every Light on Broadway" is Mazzie's favorite song in the show. "I love that sentiment. It's very true about how hard this life is but how rewarding it can be. I feel it's a real homage to what we go through as Broadway babies—or Broadway lifers, whatever you want to call me now. I'm a lifer, I guess."

Mazzie and Helene York, who plays the monumentally ungifted actress befouling the play, have formed a mutual admiration society of sorts—a good idea if they find themselves in the same Tony category in May. "I saw Marin in Kiss Me, Kate in the summer of 2000," recalled York, "and that performance changed my life, seeing her in that show, so to share the stage with her right now is wonderful. I wanted to be an actress by the point I saw Kiss Me, Kate, but I wanted to be as good as Marin Mazzie."

Off-stage, there's a gentle lilt in her voice you couldn't find with a compass on stage. She sounds like Judy Holliday with extra gravel. "I've been asked about that, but I didn't imitate anybody. I tried really hard to have it come out of me. There are so many lines in the show about how awful Olive sounds, and, of course, the lines themselves pretty well do that also. That was how it came out of me when I started reading the lines to audition. That's how I believe she would sound. Thank God, I don't actually sound like that. I wouldn't have any friends in my life, that's for sure."

She is of two schools of thought about the dumb blonde she's playing. "I battle that image seriously in my personal life, but I perpetuate it in my professional one," she admitted. "I think it was Dolly Parton who said, 'I'm not dumb and I'm also not a blonde.' Woody is always reminding me that Olive is not nasty. She's just dumb. That's the charm in her, and that's the tricky line I have to walk with this character."

One of her musical highlights is "Let's Misbehave," an exuberant mating-dance of sorts that Olive does with Warner Purcell, a British actor who deals with stress by compulsively and constantly overeating. He's played by Brooks Ashmanskas, an American comic actor in the windy wheeze of Roger Livesey's Colonel Blimp.

"Brooks is, by far, the funniest actor I've ever been around. The incredible thing about him is what he brings. His infectious positivity and humor pervade us all," York said.

The role of Purcell, whose weight increases from scene to scene—Ashmanskas uses two fat suits for illusion—seems to work better on stage than it did on screen because it's an easy laugh always available. But Ashmanskas won't hear a word said about Jim Broadbent's performance in the film. "I was obsessed with it when it first came out, so I'm thrilled and honored to do it."