Watch out Woody Allen fans: Bullets Over Broadway the Musical is premiering in Chicago this April. It's the story of a playwright who obtains financial backing from a mobster and already has audiences rolling in the aisles.
Susan Stroman brought the Woody Allen movie to life as the original director and choreographer. The production is now on a national tour and heading to the Windy City.
Bradley Allen Zarr plays Warner Purcell and is also the dance captain on the tour. He brings experience from other national tours like The Drowsy Chaperone, Catch Me If You Can and Anything Goes.
Windy City Times: Hi, Bradley. What is your background?
Bradley Allen Zarr: I grew up in North Carolina. Both of my parents were professionals in the theater when I was a kid. My mother was a high school drama teacher and my dad used to build sets for a living. I came to New York when I was 18 and studied at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy.
I started dancing when I was 17, so had a late start but went full force into it. I never looked back!
WCT: Do you sing also?
BAZ: Yes, since I was a kid. It runs in my blood. I was part of a children's choir.
One time we took a trip to New York and the first Broadway show I saw was 42nd Street. That was when I decided that is what I wanted to do. I love the MGM-style shows and tap dancing. I begged my family for tap lessons and they eventually gave in.
WCT: How did you land Bullets Over Broadway?
BAZ: Last year, I was doing the national tour of Anything Goes. They asked a group of us from that show to do a dance commercial for the upcoming tour of Bullets Over Broadway. We went out and learned several numbers from the show.
That is where we met some of the creative team. They asked me to come in to audition. I was auditioning for the ensemble and they gave me some sides to read, such as Warner Purcell. I ended up reading and singing in front of Susan Stroman. I got the call that they wanted me for the role so I was ecstatic.
WCT: What is the history of the live show of Bullets Over Broadway?
BAZ: It played on Broadway in 2014 and was nominated for several Tonys. It had a short year on Broadway and was outshone by some other shows that were opening.
Woody Allen was approached by several companies to make Bullets into a musical. He declined because he didn't like the original music. Songs from the '20s were eventually suggested and he is a big jazz fanatic. He played the clarinet actually. He decided to work on it with Susan Stroman, who also has a vast knowledge of that time period and the music written. They worked together to create a song list that integrates the songs into the plot. After years of rewriting it eventually came out on Broadway so that is how it came about.
WCT: I'm glad the songs are not just words of the plot.
BAZ: No, they have an authenticity because it is using music from the era. The audience is immersed in the 1920s.
WCT: Does the Dianne Weist character steal the show like she does in the movie?
BAZ: Helen Sinclair is brilliantly written. She is played beautifully by Emma Stratton, who is our leading lady. She's fantastic and gotten rave reviews everywhere we have been.
The show is very smart. Woody added some one-liners and zingers to make it a little more along the lines of musical comedy. It still has the cerebral sense of Woody Allen. It is all based in reality.
It's not like Guys and Dolls where people are playing at being a gangster. With this show you will have the sense that they are gangsters. They might be tap dancing but you will be scared for your life!
WCT: I remember the movie being campy but don't remember any specific LGBT parts.
BAZ: Well, Harvey Fierstein makes a cameo.
WCT: Are you ever asked to do your Harvey Fierstein impression at an audition?
BAZ: How did you know about that?
WCT: I saw it on your resume.
BAZ: [Laughs] I have never been asked at an audition but one time I was looking for representation and an agent asked me to do it. It is always fun to pull that out. It is my one party trick.
WCT: It must sound raspy.
BAZ: It is not easy on the vocal cords. I would love to meet him. He's a huge inspiration to me growing up in the South. It was hard growing up being gay and looking for positive influences. I remember seeing Mrs. Doubtfire, and that was my first introduction to him. In high school, I learned about how much he has written for the theater. He's been so important to LGBT history. I would to do a show with him or at least sit down for a drink with him. I have a lot of questions!
WCT: What else do you like about Bullets Over Broadway?
BAZ: The costumes are fabulous with William Ivey Long Tony-nominated designs. The set is stunning. It is definitely the most beautiful show that I have been a part of.
The ensemble is gorgeous and the most talented dancers I have worked with. To be the dance captain of the show is a huge honor.
I am really excited about bringing this production to Chicago audiences!
Bullets Over Broadway opens fire April 19-May 1 at The PrivateBank Theatre, 18 W. Monroe St. Visit broadwayinchicago.com for ticket information .