The microphones don't cut out during Bullets Over Broadway, but you might leave hoping they had.
Soon after the touring production of Ragtime disappointed during its Dallas stop, here comes another non-equity tour that relies on sub-par music and its young cast's enthusiasm to carry the show.
There is a hidden orchestra this time (or at least the program promises so), but they sure sound canned on "the best sound system in North Texas." Although Ragtime has a rich plot and gorgeous score to fall back on, this adaptation of Woody Allen's 1994 film is almost as irritating as it is forgettable. It builds the veneer of a classic backstage musical but collapses in on itself with inane dialogue, glacial pacing, and songs that go in one ear and out the other. It feels like you should be having fun, but after that knee-jerk reaction you realize you're actually quite bored.
Two bright spots are William Ivey Long's sparkly, swishy costumes and Susan Stroman's choreography, which is recreated by a lithe, athletic chorus. Well, actually there's a quibble with that choreography. It's so Stroman-impressive that during a big tap number in Act I, the feet don't quite match up with the sounds. Funny, that.
Also disappointing, since the song ("Tain't Nobody's Bizness If I Do") is a big number for Jeff Brooks, who plays a tough-talking gangster that manages to be humorous, intimidating, and charming all at the same time. While the rest of the cast is trapped in a poor man's Kiss Me, Kate, Brooks succeeds with a consistently entertaining character.
Michael Williams could be adorable as the nebbish playwright who gets mixed up with mobsters while trying to produce his pompous new work, but it's hard to determine his motivations. The mugging is so rampant and overwhelming it's impossible to get a sense of who this young man really is. His sweetheart, Ellen (Hannah Rose DeFlumeri), is the definition of set dressing. After her singular scene in the first act, you've almost forgotten who she is by the time she finally reappears.
Emma Stratton is sleek and sculpted as the (klepto and nympho) maniac actress Helen Sinclair, but even her sultry schtick eventually gets tiring. Jemma Jane should be a riot as the ditzy, pushy chorine, but she so shrilly overacts that it's a true relief when she gets bumped off. And while there's absolutely no way around the ample onstage violence (remember the title, after all), the shootings aplenty feel uncomfortable in light of recent national news.
This tour of Bullets Over Broadway, the first since it shuttered on the Great White Way in 2014, definitely kills, just not in a good way.
Bullets Over Broadway runs at the Music Hall at Fair Park through June 26.