Jonathan on Woody's Show

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"You are a terrible actress!" BANG! BANG! No more terrible actress.

"Bullets Over Broadway" is an active and hilarious musical based on one of Woody Allen's films. And oh the dancing! One's jaw drops, as helpless jaws have dropped for years because of Susan Stroman, the indecently gifted choreographer, a revered artist with an unsuspected availability - she picks up her own phone; she speaks with you on a street corner for as long as you wish; and best of all she tells the truth.

Bullets Over Broadway has a unique and purposeful score. Old songs from the Twenties are put to marvelous use here in another century. "Gee Baby, Ain't I Good to you," I'm Sitting on top of the World," "Tain't Nobody's Biz-ness if I Do," "There'll Be Some Changes Made," "Yes We Have No Bananas," "She's Funny That Way," that last one used touchingly, in fact memorably, authentically.

In fact, there's a good deal of authenticity in this entertainment: language, music, period, personality, and, I think, the very theme at the soul of the event: how much can an artist give to the various corners of living a life around other human beings. Through a cluster of days Woody Allen, Susan Stroman, and Glen Kelly, the music supervisor and the author of additional lyrics that would eventually make the story flow forward, met in Woody's house on the fifth floor in a room with many paintings and drawings on the walls by Woody's and Soon Yi's two children. No carpet, no couch, and only somewhat uncomfortable chairs. However, a piano. Each one of them brought to the table a lifetime of love for American popular songs of all kinds, and a knowledge that only a few others could match.

The show speaks through Woody's voice. The jokes are Woodlian. He came to all the previews and listened to the audiences response to those jokes. When he heard only a polite response he made a note of it, or them, and the next morning he'd arrive at rehearsal with four or five brand new jokes, handed out to the proper actors like warm muffins. When the cast read the muffins for the first time, and laughter ensued from all who were present, Woody listened and lowered his head and smiled, sort of. He's a hard man to drag a laugh out of, especially from his own writing. Here's a Reader's Digest version of Woodlian: The terrible actress confronts in her script the word "id." It's not the first word she's never come upon. "Id?" she asks, defensibly, and is told its meaning. She mulls it over. "Spell it," she demands.

Keep in mind: Woody Allen is America's most famous living writer. And he's got a show on Broadway. Attention, attention must be paid.

Jonathan Schwartz