Reposted review of August 2016 premiere production of BROADWAY BOUNTY HUNTER at Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield MA. Now Off-Broadway at Greenwich House Theatre.
BROADWAY BOUNTY HUNTER, a sassy, joyous, booty-shakin’, dyno-mite new musical in its world premiere in the Berkshires, tests how Barrington Stage Company’s small St. Germaine theatre can handle all the talented power exploding on its compact stage.
Written by the stylistically versatile composer and lyricist Joe Iconis and new playwrights Lance Rubin and Jason SweetTooth Williams, BROADWAY BOUNTY HUNTER tells the tale of how New York stage veteran actor Annie Golden, sixtysomething (read un-castable), widowed (lonely), with nothing to lose (desperate), becomes a bounty hunter to capture a drug lord in South America.
The story is inspired by Iconis’ good friend the real actor Annie Golden, sixtysomething, Broadway veteran, but, unlike her fictionalized character, still totally a star, as evidenced by her powerhouse performance here. For narrative inspiration, the writing trio plumb the Blaxploitation films of the 70s (think “Cleopatra Jones”) with some King-Fu movies thrown in. What emerges after two acts of 17 musical numbers and non-stop action and dance is both a fresh, heartfelt story of a woman who discovers her inner self and a hip, cool love letter to the musical comedy tradition.
You know right off from the start you’ve got a musical that works when the opening number not only grabs the audience with a tune but also tells the audience what the main character is all about. Iconis’ “Woman of a Certain Age” is like a mini master class in both (plus it provides a musical theme deservedly reprised several times). Golden shines in that, but two other numbers prevail: the beautifully constructed “Ain’t No Thing” her duet with wistful melody that concludes Act 1 (and sets up the subplot key to Act 2) and Golden’s powerful solo ballad of self-affirmation, “Veins.”
BROADWAY BOUNTY HUNTER’s book, as cool as Iconis’ score, acknowledges, too, the best elements of musical comedy genre. Annie gets paired up with Lazurus ((the deep, silky- voiced Alan H. Green), a handsome stud years younger than she, to hunt down the drug lord Mac Roundtree (hilariously played over-the-top by BSC’s Jeff McCarthy). What happens between Annie and Lazarus and what Annie discovers about Mac Roundtree (named with a wink to the 70s Black detective Shaft, famously portrayed by actor Richard Roundtree) depends on ridiculous coincidence and plot twists, pretty typical of old-fashioned musical comedy.
There’s loads of inside-baseball theatre jokes (I like the ones about Mandy Patankin and XANADU), and sometimes even deliberate cornball, but the humor is all tongue-in-cheek fun, snarky but never bitchy, self-deprecating but never condescending to its characters. The second act gets a little clumsy in tying plot loose ends together, but, so what? Name a musical where the second act isn’t a little less than the first: it goes with the genre.
Choreographer Jeffrey Page punctuates ensemble numbers with dance moves of the 70s (think Soul Train), the only drawback being the confines of the St Germain stage preventing the company from really breaking loose. The fight choreography by Ryan Winkles mimics with perfect cartoon quality the action sequences from 70s martial arts movies.
All the action, including the cast dancing in the aisles to open the second act, is woven together by director Julianne Boyd, who took over direction deep into rehearsals, teching the entire production in just a week. If space is somewhat constrained in BROADWAY BOUNTY HUNTER, costuming definitely is not. Hats off to Bobby Frederick Tilley for a rapid-fire parade of dozens of colorful, dazzling, witty adaptations of 70s fashions. Lazarus’ blue and white plaid, bell-bottomed, polyester suit accented with cobalt blue felt fedora with pheasant plume out-superflies Superfly.
What comes through in every aspect of BROADWAY BOUNTY HUNTER is how passionately Joe Iconis, Annie Golden and company love musical theater. BROADWAY BOUNTY HUNTER is so entertaining and so much fun, they all make it so easy to feel the love, feel the power.
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