“Bullets Over Broadway” brings 1920s to C.Y. Stephens

Emma Stratton (Helen Sinclair) silences Michael Williams (David Shayne) in the first national tour of “Bullets over Broadway,” based on the movie by Woody Allen and featuring choreography by Susan Stroman. The musical comes to Stephens Auditorium Thursday night.

Maggie Curry

Giving audiences a chance to see tap-dancing mobsters, “Bullets Over Broadway” will perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at C.Y. Stephens Auditorium. In a musical that combines comedy, style and the music of the Roaring ’20s “Bullets” will be in Ames for its first national tour.

Tickets for the show are priced by section: $25, $39, $52, $65 and $70; youth and ISU student tickets cost $28. 

Tickets can be purchased from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Iowa State Center Ticket Office, which is located at the north entrance of Stephens Auditorium; at all Ticketmaster centers; by phone: 1-800-745-3000 or online via Ticketmaster.

“Bullets Over Broadway” contains some innuendos and violence not suited for children, cast member Michael Williams said. Williams would rate it somewhere between a lenient PG-13 and NC-17, though the original film was rated R.

A preview of the dancing mobsters was shown during the 68th annual Tony Awards.

The musical is based off the 1994 Woody Allen film of the same name. Allen’s comedic style involves quieter, witty comments and contradictions. The musical expands on his humor to include comedy better suited for the stage.

“We have everything from the really dry, sarcastic zingers Woody Allen has to some slapstick comedy,” Williams said. 

Williams credits luck and timing with his casting but is frequently praised in reviews for his comedic range while portraying playwright David Shayne.

“[David] is the straight man in a world of incredibly zany, out there people,” Williams said.

Throughout the musical David’s control is tested. His play is finally being produced, but it comes with a catch. The funding comes from a mobster who wants his (extremely untalented) girlfriend, Olive, to star in David’s play. This sends David into a panic. 

“David goes from zero to 100 on the panic scale when things aren’t going his way,” Williams said. “He’s very controlling, he wants things to go exactly the way he’s dreamed them to be.” 

Through the fictional play’s rehearsal process you meet the other cast members, including an aging diva, Helen Sinclair. David, despite having a girlfriend, begins to fall in love with Helen. Helen manipulates him to rewrite parts of the play to her advantage.

In the show, David has to ask himself how much he is willing to compromise for his art. Helen isn’t the only one pressuring David to change the play.

“Slowly but surely you realize that the bodyguard that comes with Olive to all of the rehearsals actually has a lot of good ideas about writing,” Williams said. “The gangster [Cheech] starts to take over, bit by bit, and you start to realize he’s more talented than the writer [David] is.”

Audience members can expect a trip to the ’20s. The music is taken directly from popular music of the 1920s, so audiences may recognize some tunes.

Also wrapped around the Woody Allen storyline is the choreography of Susan Stroman, including a gangster ballet, a showgirl number, a Charleston and the mobster tap number. There are even showgirls in tiger suit onesies. 

For more information about the musical, visit the Iowa State Center Web Page for the show.