“Bullets Over Broadway” Closes

An All-Star Team Leads to Naught

bullets over broadway the musicalOn August 24, 2014, the new musical Bullets over Broadway played its last performance at the St. James Theatre.  Highly anticipated upon its start of previews on March 11, 2014, the musical disappointed when the reviews came out after its opening night of April 10, 2014.  This show is based off the 1994 film of the same name by Woody Allen and Douglas McGrath.  The musical book was written by Woody Allen, and the score is made up of songs from the 1920s orchestrated by Doug Besterman.  The show was directed and choreographed by the very successful Susan Stroman (The Producers).  Nevertheless, despite this powerful team of proven talents, the show was a quick flop.  The cast featured Zach Braff (Garden State, Scrubs) in his Broadway debut, alongside Marin Mazzie, Nick Cordero, Karen Ziemba, Vincent Pastore, and Brooks Ashmanskas.

A Serious Financial Loss

With a budget of $14 million, the show is sure to close at a significant financial loss.  The musical only played 33 preview bullets over broadway dance numberperformances and 156 regular performances, which is much less than would have been needed to recoup that large investment.  Due to mixed reviews in a season with a slew of competing large-scale musicals, the box office sales never got off the ground.  Its highest numbers were earned in the weeks shortly after the show’s official opening, when reviews spurred word of mouth.  In those weeks, the grosses inched towards the million dollar mark without ever reaching it; the highest weekly gross was $974,076 in the week ending April 20, 2014.  With a few more scattered weeks in the $800,000 and $900,000 range, the show’s numbers have been seriously tapering off in recent weeks.  All throughout July and August, the show has struggled to maintain a gross as high as $650,000.  It even reached the supremely low gross of $492,009 in the week ending July 6, 2014.  Therefore, on July 22, 2014, the producers announced that the show would be closing on August 24th.

Awards and Storyline

The show received six Tony Award nominations, but failed to win any.  They were those for Best Book of a Musical for Woody Allen, Best Featured Actor in a Musical for Nick Cordero, Best Scenic Design of a Musical for Santo Loquasto, Best Costume Design of a Musical for William Ivey Long, Best Choreography for Susan Stroman, and Best Orchestrations for Doug Besterman.  However, those nominations may have been more of a nod for the producers, as there was certainly a lot of hype going into this spring season, although none of it came to muster.  The story involves the world of theatre in the 1920s, as a playwright named David Shayne is finally getting his first play produced on Broadway.  A wealthy gangster who is financing the show wants his girlfriend to play the lead, and her dim-witted bodyguard comes up with some good ideas to improve the script.  Unfortunately, it appears that the antics of the earlier generations of theatre were not enough to entice a theatergoing audience, who are underwhelmed by farce and look for more original forms of entertainment.

“Bullets Over Broadway” Opens at the St. James Theatre

Bullets over Broadway, the new musical based off the 1994 film of the same name, opened on April 10, 2014 at Broadway’s St. James Theatre.  With a book by Woody Allen based on the screenplay he wrote along with Douglas McGrath, the musical is directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman.  The story is a fitting one for Broadway, as it tells of a young playwright in 1929 named David Shayne who is desperately trying to get his first Broadway production.  In order to secure financing for the play, he agrees to hire the girlfriend of a gangster, in exchange for that gangster backing the production.  The actress’ gangster escort turns out to be a genius contributor to revising the play, but soon David is pretending that those ideas are his own.  Bad turns to worse, as David begins cheating on his girlfriend with the alcoholic leading lady, and the leading man, who is also a compulsive eater, begins to eye the gangster’s girlfriend.

The cast is led by actor-writer Zach Braff (Garden State, Scrubs) as David Shayne.  Though this is Braff’s Broadway debut, he is a familiar face on the Off-Broadway scene, not only as an actor but also as playwright; his play All New People played at New York’s Second Stage Theatre in 2011.  The cast bullets over broadway the musicalof Bullets over Broadway also includes Marin Mazzie as the leading lady Helen Sinclair, Helene Yorke as the gangster’s girlfriend Olive, and Nick Cordero as her escort Cheech.  Of all these actors, however, only Nick Cordero received a Tony nomination, for the category of Best Featured Actor in a Musical.

In total, the musical received six Tony Award nominations, also including those for Best Book of a Musical for Woody Allen, Best Scenic Design for Santo Loquasto, Best Costume Design for William Ivey Long, Best Choreography for Susan Stroman, and Best Orchestrations for Doug Besterman.  This may be considered a disappointment compared to what some theatre industry watchers were expecting, as the musical failed to be nominated in any of the major categories, such as Best New Musical, Best Director, or Best Score.  Furthermore, it is interesting to note that Woody Allen, for his first ever Tony nomination, will be competing against Douglas McGrath, who wrote the book for Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, and who also co-wrote the screenplay for the film Bullets over Broadway.

However, the biggest disappointment is that the musical received fairly negative reviews.  Ben Brantley of The New York Times called it “occasionally funny but mostly just loud.”  Ending his review on a perhaps prophetic note, Brantley then suggested that the authenticity-seeking Cheech take over direction of the musical, and the Tony nominating committee seemed to agrbullets over broadway dance numberee that this performance was one of the best things going for the show.  Furthermore, Marilyn Stasio of Variety remarked how the script was surprisingly few on laughs, and that several of the big dance numbers fall flat, most notably “The Hot Dog Song.”  The Hollywood Reporter also disliked the show, comparing it to a “watered-down champagne cocktail.”  Only NBC New York seemed to like it, even going so far as to call it the best new musical on Broadway this season.  Too bad the Tony committee did not agree.

Financially, the show has been staying afloat, if not exceedingly well.  In the week ending April 27, 2014, it grossed $956,227, and it did even a little bit better in the week preceding that.  In the first few weeks of performances, it did numbers in the 700 to 800,000 dollar range, which is still fairly decent.  Its audience capacity has been flitting between 86 to 92 percent, with an average ticket price around 70 or 80 dollars, which shows a normal amount of discounting for a show still trying to hit its stride.  All in all, the name value of this title will certainly help it find its audience, and the star power of Zach Braff shouldn’t hurt.  Still, with mediocre reviews and minimal Tony recognition, this musical may not ever become the hit that its producers hoped it would.

Bring It On: The Musical Opens at the St. James Theatre Tonight

Get out your pom-poms … Bring It On: The Musical opens at the St. James Theatre tonight. Inspired by the competitive cheerleading movie Bring It On, which has something of a reputation as a campy cult favorite, Bring It On: The Musical is playing a very limited run on Broadway, with an expected closing date of October 7. Technically Broadway is just a stop on the show’s national tour, which began in Los Angeles last autumn.

The main draw of Bring It On is the fact that–unlike your average Broadway musical–it showcases some pretty impressive gymnastics. Real-life competitive cheerleaders are featured in the cast, showing off the kind of high-flying moves that are rarely seen outside of a cheerleading competition.

Bring It On: The Musical has a book by Avenue Q‘s aptly named Jeff Whitty and choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler. Two Tony Award-winning composers, Tom Kitt (Next To Normal) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights), supply the music, with Miranda and Amanda Green contributing the lyrics.