Bullets Over Broadway the Musical: Funny Slapstick With Intelligent, Dark Humor

Bradley Allan Zarr (Warner Purcell) and Jemma Jane (Olive Neal) in the North American tour of Bullets Over Broadway
Bradley Allan Zarr (Warner Purcell) and Jemma Jane (Olive Neal) in the North American tour of Bullets Over Broadway
Photo by Matthew Murphy

Olive is not particularly smart, at least not in the academic way. According to Jemma Jane, who plays her in the upcoming Bullets Over Broadway musical adapted from Woody Allen's 1994 movie: “Basically she is seen as kind of a bimbo. She didn't grow up with much. She was out on the streets until she managed to manipulate the world into getting her what she wanted,” Jane says.

Now she's living in an expensive apartment paid for by her gangster boyfriend, Jane says. That boyfriend is underwriting a Broadway production and he demands that Olive be cast in a role. The playwright, desperate to see his work performed, agrees.

“She should not be on Broadway, no,” Jane says. “Most of her experience has come from gentlemen's clubs. She dances, but it's not necessarily technical, and she sings, but it's not necessarily trained. She has all of the drive and all of the passion for it, but she does not have the skill. She does not let that stop her, though.”

Despite Olive's shortcomings, Jane, who just graduated from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City, says she admires her because she's “so fierce and strong and independent,” which she found especially striking for the pre-­'60s time frame.

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Olive's other distinctive characteristics are a tendency to dress in loud, bold colors (“She's something of a peacock”) and to speak in a very irritating, penetrating nasal voice. Jane says she didn't have any difficulty developing the voice although as someone who grew up in England and Australia, she thinks it ironic that a Brit has taken on the singularly American role (complete with Jersey accent) in this production.

The musical (brought here by Broadway at the Hobby) employs songs from the end of World War I to the 1930s and includes “Let's Misbehave,” “Tain't Nobody's Bizness If I Do” and “Up a Lazy River,” among others. Jane describes the show as “funny slapstick” along with the intelligent, sometimes dark humor of Allen, which makes it fun for a variety of tastes.

Performances are scheduled for December 27 - January 2 at 2 p.m. Sunday; 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday. Through January 2, 2016. Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. For information, call 800-982-2787 or visit broadwayatthehobbycenter.com. $25 to $100.

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