It’s ‘Bombs Away!’ for Broadway’s dirty little secrets Local writers parody popular musicals with real punch

Don’t remember a number in Miss Saigon called “I Own a Nail Salon”? Funny – Larry Bortniker and Sally Deering seem to think there should have been one.

That’s why Bortniker, a born and bred Hobokenite, and Deering, a Weehawken resident, teamed up to write Bombs Away! – a musical comedy that shows no mercy with wild and wacky musical numbers that might have been if some of Broadway’s most popular shows had gone in a different direction.

This is the second time the two have joined forces to bring a show to life. In 2005, they had a successful Off-Broadway run with Dr. Sex, a musical about the life and times of sex researcher Alfred Kinsey.

Now, Bombs Away! will run at Don’t Tell Mama in Manhattan throughout this month.

Don’t tell Broadway

“It would be funny to think about all the numbers that are cut from shows, because with a lot of musicals, not every number gets in,” says Deering, continuing to say that she wondered, “What would it be like to find these numbers that the writers didn’t want anyone to find?”

Enter the character of Dr. Barry Mishkin. As host for the evening and curator of the American Musical Theatre Archives in Washington, D.C., Miskhin introduces the audience to scenes he collected that were “dropped from Broadway’s classic musicals.”

Mishkin endures paranoia and calls from his lawyer over the course of the show, which runs an hour and 10 minutes long.

“Everything starts to go a little wrong for him, and at one point, somebody actually takes a picture of him,” Deering says. “You hear the announcement at the beginning of the show, no taking pictures, no cell phones – and someone takes a picture during the show, and he goes ‘What are you doing?’ ” She laughs, “Everything you’re not supposed to do in a show, we do it.”

Another thing Mishkin’s lawyer might call him about is Mamma Mia! cast members Bryan Scott Johnson and Lori Haley Fox appearing in this show that contains a Mamma Mia! “lost number” called “See Ya in IKEA.”

Mamma Mia! is such a Swedish musical – it’s ABBA – and Larry wrote a great song about them actually shopping at IKEA with all the Swedish names for things,” says Deering, who then quoted a few of Bortniker’s lyrics from the number: “I hope your hands aren’t too trembly / This stuff still needs assembly.”

Deering and Bortniker credit director Peter Flynn, choreographer Dev Janki, and their cast with bringing the show to life – the cast also includes Christopher Corts (Dr. Sex), Jerry Coyle (Room Service), and Sara Jane Everson, (Wicked).

Creating Broadway’s lost gems

What else is on the list of banned show tunes? How about Bortniker’s favorite, “I Own a Nail Salon,” an alternative ending to Miss Saigon.

“In the original, Kim, the woman, kills herself, and the love child she had goes to America and that kind of thing,” Bortniker explains. “But in this one, we pretend that she didn’t kill herself. She tried to shoot herself, but she missed, and she and her lover meet in the mall in Woodbridge, New Jersey 25 years later.”

Deering adds, “At a Dunkin’ Donuts no less. She’s ordering a Boston cream donut and he’s ordering crullers, and they spot each other.”

The writing team describes the scene: her lover thinks things will return to the way they were, with her as his “lotus blossom,” and she says “No way, baby, I own a nail salon,” and she drives an Expedition, shops at Target, and their love child owns a Vietnamese restaurant.

Think that’s wild and hysterical? Bortniker’s other favorite number is “The Bris,” which they did for Fiddler on the Roof.

“In the original, the non-Jewish Russian soldier falls in love with one of Tevye’s daughters, but she’s Jewish, and they can’t get married, and so Tevye disowns them,” says Bortniker. “So in our show, they come up with another solution, which is to give the Russian guy a circumcision. He doesn’t really know what the word ‘bris’ means – he’s so gung ho, and he doesn’t know what it means.”

Not only is each song tailored to fit the musical it parodies, but Deering credits Bortniker for writing the music in the style of the original musical’s composer.

“What’s great is that Larry wrote this beautiful melody,” Deering says, citing a number they say was dropped from West Side Story because it was too gay. “I mean this number – it’s like Streisand could record this song. But it’s so funny, too. The great thing about Larry is that he can write really beautiful melodies and funny lyrics. So you’re appreciating the number on a lot of levels.”

The writers

Bortniker wrote the music and lyrics for the show, while Deering wrote the book.

Bortniker, who was a teacher for 17 years, considers himself fortunate that he can focus full-time on writing. Deering currently wears several hats by day – doing publicity, ghostwriting, and working on a book of her own. Additionally, the two plan to continue to collaborate; Deering says they have a film idea they’re working on.

The show they wrote in 1998, Dr. Sex, played in Los Angeles and Chicago in addition to its Off-Broadway run, and they hope to see it open on Broadway someday. And now, they’re taking Bombs Away! for a trial at Don’t Tell Mama.

On opening night, Feb. 25, Bortniker was thrilled with the response.

“They either laugh or they don’t,” Bortniker says, pausing, “But they laughed!”

Lory Haley Fox, who’s also appearing in Mamma Mia!, got the script and thought it was so out there, funny, and ridiculous – which she says she means in a wonderful way.

“I think the show, being as small as it is, would probably have a great Off-Broadway run,” says Fox. “It definitely has a little bit of a bluer comedy to it.”

Fox’s favorite number in the show is “Somewhere Else,” because she thinks Bortniker’s song writing is brilliant. Deering and Bortniker talk about this show being part of the development process, but they, along with Fox, invite everyone to come down and take a look at the work in progress.

“I’m having a fantastic time, and I’d love for people to come out and see it,” Fox says. “They’d definitely have a different experience, and they’d have a lot of fun.”

Performances are March 10, 11, and 25 at 9 p.m. and March 17 and 24 at 6 p.m. at Don’t Tell Mama, 343 West 46th St. Tickets are $20, and there is a two-drink minimum. For more information or reservations, call (212) 757-0788.

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