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A CurtainUp Review
Broadway Bounty Hunter
By Dan Rubins
Or not entirely. Annie Golden, star of Hair and The Full Monty and, yes, Assassins (and more recently a recurring role on Orange Is The New Black ), plays Annie Golden, star of Hair and The Full Monty and, well, you get the idea. (Her TV credits aren't mentioned onstage, though). But the quasi-imagined Annie Golden at the center of Broadway Bounty Hunter , the quirkily vibrant new musical bouncing into the Greenwich House Theater after a premiere at Barrington Stage three years ago (Curtainup's review), has fallen on hard times: her husband drowned ten years ago and directors won't take her seriously in audition rooms anymore. Things change when martial arts master Shiro Jin (Emily Borromeo) recruits Annie as a bounty hunter, based on, among other things, Annie's "wisdom that comes with age."
That compliment sounds like a double-edged sword, and swords, by the way, are just one of the weapons Annie explores through a delirious, delightful training sequence with Shiro Jin's bounty hunting squad, led by the cocky, aloof Lazarus (Alan H. Green). Annie and Lazarus soon set off on their first mission: to capture the evil Mac Roundtree (an over-the-top, diabolical Brad Oscar), a South American pimp and drug-pusher.
Though the show toys with parodying blaxploitation and kung fu film tropes (except for Golden and Oscar, all the performers are people of color), Broadway Bounty Hunter narrowly avoids discomfort or tastelessness with a healthy dose of self-aware ribbing: Annie's quintessential white lady-ness is at the receiving end of the funniest jokes. So too is her obsession with all things theater. "I feel like I'm working with Mandy Patinkin again," she groans when Lazarus proves a difficult collaborator. The book, by Iconis, Lance Rubin, and Jason Sweettooth Williams, is among the most amusing I've heard in a while. (That said, I'm not sure whether a recurring plot point centered around the punchline of young people dying of drug overdoses is as hilarious as the team thinks it is.)
Joe Iconis' rollicking score pulsates with the vibes of R & B and ‘70s rock n' roll, but, even in pastiche, his writing feels cleaner and sharper than his songs for his biggest hit, Be Mor Chill (Curtainup'sReview ). While Iconis' lyrics seldom reach the point of laugh-out-loud, even when they try to, there's some excellent character development in his writing here, especially in Lazarus' epic soliloquy, "Feelings," which Green knocks out of the park. (Lazarus sings that song while driving through an ever-changing jungle, just one of Brad Peterson's many eye-catching projections.)
What makes Broadway Bounty Hunter not just devilish fun but actually somehow compelling, uplifting theatre are the wickedly impressive performances that feature clever staging and exuberant, inexhaustible choreography from Jennifer Werner. All of Shiro's fighters — played with charismatic individuality to spare by Badia Farha, Jasmine Forsberg, Omar Garibay, Jared Joseph, and Christina Sajous (it's worthwhile to name them all) — illuminate the show's wacky pantheon of characters, from a feverish bounty hunter with a signature move involving removing some critical body parts to the bumping-and-grinding-and-twerking denizens of a South American jungle brothel. They make Joel Waggoner's vocal arrangements sizzle.
Then there's Golden and Green who stir up some mesmerizing chemistry as they hunt their bounty together. Green's slinking walk and brusquely confident speech are meant at first as silly satire. As a caring, passionate character emerges, they start to feel less like goofy overlay and more like the motions of a heartbroken man shielding himself from more pain. As for Golden, her plaintive voice, almost cutesy in its reservedness before it explodes into a soulful croon, it suggests a woman in search of the right notes to express the self-confidence she's always had. She turns out to be pretty bad-ass, but, then again, we knew that all along. That a show with a nutso plot like Broadway Bounty Hunter could turn up with such fine-tuned, complex protagonists is the real revelation here.
Where does this joyride drive next? Unlike Be More Chill, bound for infinite school and regional productions, it's hard to imagine a widespread life for Broadway Bounty Hunter. The treatment of both Black and Asian characters in the show could easily slip into offensive caricature with a director less confident and conscious than Jennifer Werner or a cast less united in conveying the show's sensibilities.
And, of course, there's the problem of the lead. I assume that Anne L. Nathan, another talented veteran who understudies the role of Annie once a week, substitutes her own name and bio in performance. But what do you do with an actress with more than four syllables in her name or one without a recognizable Broadway résumé? .
That's a problem for another day. For now, the chance to see Annie Golden in her fiercely ridiculous (or ridiculously fierce) pursuit of justice is a bounty worth hunting all by itself.
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. Broadway Bounty Hunter by Joe Iconis (music, lyrics, book) and Lance Rubin & Jason Sweettooth Williams (book)
Directed and Choreographed by Jennifer Werner
Cast: Annie Golden, Alan H. Green, Brad Oscar, Emily Borromeo, Badia Farha, Jasmine Forsberg, Omar Garibay, Jared Joseph, and Christina Sajous
Set Designer: Michael Schweikardt
Lighting Designer: Jules Fisher & Peggy Eisenhauer
Sound Designer: Cody Spencer
Costume Designer: Sarafina Bush
Projection and Video Designer: Brad Peterson
Vocal Arrangements: Joel Waggoner
Music Director: Geoffrey Ko
Orchestrations: Charlie Rosen
Running Time: 2 hours, 5 minutes minutes, including intermission
Greenwich House Theater, 27 Barrow Street
From 7/9/19; opening 7/24/19; closing 9/15/19--closing moved up to 8/17/19
Tuesdays-Thursdays at 7, Fridays at 8, Saturdays at 2 and 8, Sundays at 2 and 7:30
Reviewed by Dan Rubins at 7/20 performance
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