Bullets Over Broadway

Sometimes you go to the theater and leave changed by what you just witnessed. Thinking about life differently and all that. Other times you just want to be entertained. And that is exactly what the touring production Bullets Over Broadway at the newly named PrivateBank Theatre did for me last night.

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I was amazed at the choreography and always enjoy tap dancing (especially if it’s a group of mobsters!). Laughter was constant throughout the entire show. And who doesn’t love jokes filled to the brim with sexual innuendos?

The male lead David Shayne, played by Michael Williams, was a mix between NPH, Matthew Morrison, and Gene Kelly. So nothing wrong with that! Very entertaining with great facial expressions. Jemma Jane, who played Olive, did the dumb blonde act perfectly well for someone fresh out of AMDA. My favorite was Cheech played by Jeff Brooks, who played the tough guy gangster who could amazingly write a play that people loved. His character is supposed to be unlikable by nature but instead ends up being a crowd favorite. For a guy that played Gaston in the Beauty and the Beast tour, he plays a goofy “bad guy” perfectly.

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The bad of this show? The jokes sometimes fell flat. Also the set handling. Oh my lord the set handling. You could see the screen said “Bullets Over Broadway” before the fake machine gun fired the “holes” into the backdrop. Not cute. There was one moment for over a minute a brick wall was swaying back and forth. And then the top portion of the Boston “set” couldn’t decide if it wanted to be up or down (or the person operating it couldn’t). It was very much amateur hour up there in terms of the stage handling. Also, the intermission kept going and going after everyone was seated for a good 5 minutes. I didn’t think to clock it but it was a “are we going to start soon” and “why on earth did I leave the bar line 15 minutes ago when they flashed the lights” muttering among the crowd.

Also, can someone tell me what on earth the “Yes! We Have No Bananas” was suppose to be about? I got completely lost after that. And my wife had no clue either.

The staging was sometimes larger than life with the train sequences. The tap-dancing was on point. The extended ovation for “Tain’t Nobody’s Biz-ness If I Do” was well deserved and the highlight of the show. The laughs throughout the theatre were tremendous (side note: there was a gentleman with a laugh SO LOUD he kept scaring everyone around him. Often.). And in the end we learn what matters when it comes to art vs. a human life (or love!). Congrats on another hit and I would love to see the movie if Amazon/Netflix can ever make it available!

And just think…the next show I’ll see here will be Hamilton!  All the squees!

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Matilda the Musical

When I was a kid, we didn’t have much money, but one thing I always got if I asked for it was new books. I grew up watching Sesame Street and learning to read before I was 5 years old. So needless to say when I was younger and read Matilda I found a kid I could identify with (except the parents being awful to her that is!).

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I’ve entertained going to Matilda the Musical a few times, and then a partnership with work aligned this so I could go opening night here in Chicago. And I was absolutely blown away and this went beyond my expectations.  Sometimes with traveling shows, the production value can drop – some a bit and some a lot (yikes Mamma Mia!). This one? Based on the photos, reviews, a clips I’ve seen, this was the exact show that is currently on the West End.

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Matilda is an amazing story about a very special child. One who is not appreciated by her parents and treated terribly. School would seemingly be her escape, except that the headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, is even more vile. Matilda finds that she can be herself around her teacher, Miss Honey, and the two immediately form a bond.

The musical stays true to the original material and is more magical than I ever would have expected. It is one thing to watch the movie, because through the power of movies, you can show a little girl being thrown around by her pigtails. But the fact that they even did this in the stage production thrilled me. I just assumed they would mention that Miss Trunchbull did such a horrid thing to a student!

The musical numbers get stuck in your head for weeks, trust me. “Naughty” reminds you that sometimes a person needs a bit of mischief. “Revolting Children” makes you want to cheer for the kids as they are indeed, revolting against Trunchbull! But the song that sticks out the most for me is “When I Grow Up” and I can only imagine that is because it speaks not only to the children but to the adults as well. Before seeing the show, I read the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Jones’ love for this exact song and thought it sounded great already. But seeing it on stage is an amazing feeling. Adding the swing sets from the rafters creating the illusion that the children are flying over the audience made me smile ear-to-ear.

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A song about kids wanting to be adults. What could be more fun? But then the mood changes drastically. Now it’s about the adults losing their childhood. There’s no happy medium apparently. A very real conversation we adults have with each other every day.

Which I believe added to my love for this musical. Not only did I identify with Matilda as a child, but now that I’m older I think I still do. And I’m thankful for that because I never lost a lot of my childlike qualities. I find joy in everything, I attempt to have as much fun as possible (even if there are chores to be done – they’ll get done! Don’t pass up enjoying life!), and my wife and I tend to live our lives just like this. Also, I still read like a fiend and the library is my best friend (Chicago Public Library is seriously amazing!).

It’s always interesting to me to see if a muscial really GOT to me or not. And the fact that I saw it a couple weeks ago and it’s still in my head says it did. Particularly the chorus of “Naughty”.

Just because you find that life’s not fair, it
Doesn’t mean that you just have to grin and bear it.
If you always take it on the chin and wear it,
Nothing will change.
Even if you’re little you can do a lot, you
Mustn’t let a little thing like ‘little’ stop you.
If you sit around and let them get on top, you
Might as well be saying you think that it’s OK,
And that’s not right.

My office mate, who attended the show with me, and I both came in the next day to work talking about that particular line. If you’re unhappy, change what’s making you that way. You don’t have to take it. And that resonated with the both of us.

If Matilda the Musical comes through your city, don’t pass it up because it’s a “kids show”.  It’s really so much more than that. You’ll find yourself in there, I promise.