By John Quinn
Review: 'Bullets for Broadway'
Murder and mayhem mark musical (film at eleven)!
Yours truly is a big-time introvert. Thus I approached a dinner theater production of an interactive murder mystery with emotion best exemplified by the trapped Jeff Goldblum in "The Fly": "Help me!"
If you are unfamiliar with the "interactive" concept, it means breaking the "fourth wall" of the traditional theater and allowing the actors to confront the audience directly: involving them in the action, asking for advice, and, on this occasion, getting them into the chorus line. You're unlikely to achieve wallflower status around this type of theater.
I shouldn't have worried so much. Someone has clued the cast of StarBrite Theatrical Productions' latest dinner theater offering not to bite. But it seems pretty much anything else goes in this over-the-top staging of David Landau's intensely silly murder-musical, "Bullets for Broadway." It's sort of "The Sopranos" meets "The Producers," with a little Agatha Christie thrown in to keep the audience members on their toes. And there WILL be a murder: Keep an eye and an ear open and you WILL be able to solve the mystery before the villain is named.
It seems wise guy Tony Soaprano (note to HBO: was there ever a name so ripe for the obvious pun?) backs a Broadway musical just to launder a little money from the rackets. Since he doesn't need to turn a profit on the show, he does a favor on the home front and insists his wife, Toffee, star in the little turkey, "The Mafia Queen." Add a venal producer and na¬ïve playwright as the evening's Bialystock and Bloom, a blowhard actor, a chorus girl with a secret and a conniving gossip columnist, and you have the makings of some serious clashes. Well, in this broad a comedy, maybe serious is the wrong word.
This cast dishes out this zany stuff well. As Toffee Soprano, Tara Tomcsik gets to perform some really goofy production numbers; her character leads us to believe that Frenchy, the beauty school dropout from "Grease," went blonde and married into the mob. Let it also be noted that Rio Scafone, playing martini-swilling gossip columnist Mimi Sheraton, has given me a motto to which I now aspire, "My column can make or break a show!"
The evening is not all beer and skittles – or even prime rib and cod. The plot, though suitably superficial, is not that easy to follow; it requires one to pay close attention to keep up. That may not be easy after the third beer.
The performance space is acoustically dead, a suitable situation for a restaurant, but hell for balancing a musical accompaniment to the singers on stage. The powerful sound system is right on the verge of drowning out the lyrics.
A word to the wise: The recurring "Mad-Lib" style theater reviews are only as good as the audience members who participate. Here's hoping you can be more creative than I.
"Bullets for Broadway" Staged Friday and Saturday by Starbrite Theatrical Productions at the 14th Street Grille and Bar, 350 East 14 Mile, Madison Heights, through Oct. 16. Tickets: $39.50 includes dinner. 248-589-9900. www.starbriteprod.com.
The Bottom Line: Shakespeare it ain't, but this just-for-fun murder mystery is a diverting evening for the extrovert in you.