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April 13, 2018
The Resident Theatre Company Presents Bullets Over Broadway – A Jazzy Fun Evening
By Diane Cooley – Freelance writer and photographer from Philadelphia focused on lifestyle, entertainment, technology and business. Her writing experience includes corporate communications, public relations, magazines and blogs. Please check out @cooney_writes on Twitter and @cooneywrites on Instagram.
Cover photo – Clinton B Photography
The Resident Theatre Company (RTC) of West Chester is closing out its first full season with a rollicking production of Bullets Over Broadway. Artistic director Kristin McLaughlin Mitchell assembled a wonderful cast of NYC and Philadelphia-based actors for a professional play in the suburban college town. The RTC is the in house company of the renovated Uptown! Knauer performing arts center.
Bullets was written by Woody Allen and originally debuted in New York in 2014 and was adapted from the feature film (which Allen co-wrote with Douglas McGrath). It is the story of David Shayne (Michael Judson Berry), an idealistic, struggling playwright who finds an unlikely benefactor in Nick Valenti (Vincent A. D’Elia) a colorful businessman, (who carries a gun) agrees to back his play on Broadway. Olive ( Karis Gallant), Valenti’s showgirl mistress, is also an actress, and she’s eager to get a part in the play.
David’s longsuffering girlfriend, Ellen (Bailey Seeker) longs to see some momentum in their life—so she is supportive of this new endeavor. As David begins to assemble his dream cast, he juggles egos, with grand dame Helen Sinclair (Jennie Eisenhower) looking to reclaim her position as star. His leading man, Warner Purcell (Robert Anthony Jones) also brings some baggage to the proceedings as his appetite for life creates additional complications. When Olive gets cast in the play, Valenti assigns Cheech, (Tyler Hatch) as her bodyguard.
The play feels like a lighter, airier Woody Allen product. The lead writer has some neuroses typically found in an Allen protagonist. There are also common themes of love, infidelity, and the creative process. The cast commits to their characters, leaving the audience with a rich experience. Director McLaughlin Mitchell keeps the pace quick, but balances solo moments for the leads with fun ensemble pieces.
Barrymore winner Jennie Eisenhower’s stellar performance as Helen is one of the highlights of the show. Her comedic timing and singing are superb. One example of her skill is how she mines a long running gag throughout the play for fresh laughs.
Hatch delivers a star making turn, stealing scenes as the perceptive thug who has aspirations of his own. He also has a lovely voice and leads one of the best dance numbers. As Olive, Karis Gallant, is delightful—first, that accent! The blend of baby doll sexpot (why was that ever a thing?) with a dash of New Jersey nasal—gets deployed resulting in some hilarious moments. She’s an excellent singer, performing with gusto.
This cast featured a relatively small ensemble—which enabled them all to have a moment to shine. The men (Dante Bretelli, Derek Leo Miller, and Joshua Schwartz)—accompanied by Cheech performed a brilliant tap number, reminiscent of the golden age. There’s something magical about that footwork! For the ladies, (Phoebe Gavula, Jenna Rogalski, Kristen Smith) the showgirl scenes offered the most fun and complexity.
The costumes for the entire cast were beautiful. For Helen—they are shimmering and striking. Valenti and his crew look dapper in their suits and fedoras. The women of the ensemble take turns filling a variety of personas, and dazzled whether they were in slinky dresses with fringe or gold-trimmed uniforms.
The Resident Theatre Company made some inventive choices to project a larger production. The tech crew utilized a lighting rig that was used in part to represent gunshots and they imaginatively recreated a train ride.
The opening night performance went off with a bang. For those looking for a retro revival, this show is a crowd pleaser!
Bullets Over Broadway runs until April 15. For more information, visit Resident Theatre Company for tickets and show times. Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center 226 N. High St. West Chester, PA 19380. The Uptown Knauer Performing Arts Center is an intimate venue, with 327 seats, and excellent sightlines for all.
Note: The performance does include moments with flashing lights.