If it seems as though you've heard that song before, it really is from an old familiar score in the highly conspicuous case of Bullets Over Broadway, which is writ large in rat-a-tat-tats across the curtain that officially rose April 10 at the St. James Theatre.
All 21 were written when the '20s were roaring with Prohibition speakeasys and bloodied valentines. Broadway and gangland were doing land-office business—and, by banging these worlds together, Woody Allen created an infectious film comedy.
Now the infectious spirit has spread to Broadway and those who remember the fun they had with the film will go to the theatre expecting the same kind of fun, and they will doubtlessly find it.
The man who let it all happen came to his Broadway-musical debut tie-less, dressed in an unprepossessing gray suit, and ran the press gauntlet outside the theatre with casual elan, addressing press and TV cameras as if it's something he does every day.
Should Bullets Over Broadway prove a bonanza, would he consider having other like-minded light-fare turned into Broadway shows (say, "Purple Rose of Cairo" or "Midnight in Paris" or "Broadway Daddy Rose")? "Not necessarily," the 78-year-old filmmaker said. "No. I didn't even want to do this one. I had resisted it for years. I never had any interest in it as a musical. It was only when my sister [Letty Aronson, who co-produced the show with Julian Schlossberg] suggested doing it as a vintage musical that the idea excited me since I'm such a '20s jazz music fan. Only then. I had been asked by many people to do this as a musical. Even Marvin Hamlisch, who was a wonderful composer, had me in his apartment and played a couple of songs for me to hear written for it, and nothing felt right. I felt, 'It doesn't have to be a musical. Forget about it.' Then my sister said, 'Use 1920s songs,' and it suddenly came to life."
Stro seemed the way to go. Director-choreographer Susan Stroman turned Mel Brooks' film "The Producers" into the all-time top Tony champ, in terms of awards and noms. They went into their first huddle two years ago to the day of its opening.
Yes, the show has no bananas—dancing ones—now. Dancing hot dogs turned out to be phallic enough, and the enormous hot dog went the way of the dancing bananas. An idiotic controversy was stirred up in the gossip columns over these flourishes.
Because vintage '20s songs were so crucial to the project, musical supervisor Glen Kelly conducted an archeological dig and came up with some gems, both known and not, and then—because they were in public domain—tweaked them to fit the show.
"I did 37 percent of the lyrics," said Kelly, the music man behind The Producers, The Drowsy Chaperone and Aladdin. "That's the official percentage. A lot will hopefully go unnoticed. Some are more like plot things which you'd obviously assume were new to the show."
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