PITTSFIELD — If ever a show was powered by sheer adrenaline, it’s “Broadway Bounty Hunter.’’
Well, that and the fertile mind of composer-lyricist and co-librettist Joe Iconis. He’s the primary creative force behind this rollicking musical mash-up, now receiving its world premiere at Barrington Stage Company under the direction of Julianne Boyd.
The rowdy, funny, cheerfully cockeyed “Broadway Bounty Hunter’’ marries elements from 1970s movies like “Shaft’’ and “Enter the Dragon’’ with a twisted tale of showbiz ruthlessness. Annie Golden plays a fictionalized version of herself, a 60-ish, down-on-her-luck Broadway actress — also named Annie Golden — who winds up in hot and perilous pursuit of a fugitive drug dealer and pimp after she makes a radical career change to bounty hunter.
Iconis crafted “Broadway Bounty Hunter’’ as a star vehicle for the 64-year-old Golden, long known for quirky performances in everything from “Hair’’ (the film version and the Broadway revival) to the off-Broadway production of Sondheim’s “Assassins’’ to Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black.’’ Golden does not yet seem fully comfortable in the driver’s seat of that vehicle. Her singing was sometimes off-key on opening night, and in certain respects she seems to be still getting her arms around her role. But it’s an endearing performance all the same, partly because the sweetly dazed affect that is conjured by Golden comes to seem like the only logical response to the unusual circumstances faced by the fictional Annie.
Poignantly carrying around a head shot of herself that is long out of date, Annie keeps striking out at auditions for shows like “Jukebox: The Musical,’’ a circumstance she laments in the song “Woman of a Certain Age.” Golden seems to take a knowing enjoyment in the inside theater jokes (including one at Mandy Patinkin’s expense) that pepper “Broadway Bounty Hunter.’’
The show itself experienced a little backstage drama on the way to opening night. Just one week before the premiere, it was announced that director Leah C. Gardiner had “parted ways’’ with the production because of the proverbial “creative differences.’’ The first preview was canceled as Boyd, the artistic director at Barrington Stage, quickly took over the helm.
Maybe stress helped manufacture some of the aforementioned adrenaline that sends waves of raucous energy coursing through “Broadway Bounty Hunter.’’ More likely, the cast — especially the dynamic young ensemble that is absolutely essential to this show’s success — drew inspiration from the lively and infectious score by Iconis, a churning blend of R&B, funk, and rock ’n’ roll. The performers also seem at home with the tropes of the blaxploitation and kung-fu films that provided the impetus for “Broadway Bounty Hunter.’’
Once she becomes a bounty hunter, Annie hunts for the drug-dealing pimp in South America, where he is now running a brothel. Named Mac Roundtree — the surname is presumably an homage to Richard Roundtree, the original John Shaft — he is played by the silver-maned Jeff McCarthy, attired in a three-piece white suit. McCarthy, an endlessly versatile Barrington Stage mainstay, is a flamboyant treat as the villainous Roundtree.
Annie’s initially reluctant partner in pursuit of Roundtree is an ultra-cool bounty hunter named Lazarus, portrayed by Alan H. Green, who is taking a leave of absence from Broadway’s “School of Rock: The Musical.’’ Green’s portrayal of Lazarus, imperious and comically beleaguered by turns, is nothing short of terrific. Indeed, in crucial ways, Green anchors the entire production.
As Shiro Jin, the leader of a band of bounty hunters — who has his own, very personal reason for dispatching Annie and Lazarus to capture Roundtree — Scott Watanabe amusingly channels the super-solemn masters from martial arts movies. As an utterly-in-charge prostitute, Anastacia McCleskey brings down the house with “The Song of Janessa.’’
The winding path of the musical’s plot eventually leads from South America back to Broadway, the very place that had proven so inhospitable to Annie. It would probably not be hospitable to “Broadway Bounty Hunter’’ itself, either, but this thoroughly enjoyable show does feel like a pretty good fit for an off-Broadway theater down the road.
It’s the latest creation to emerge from Barrington Stage’s Musical Theatre Lab, an incubator for new musicals that was founded in 2006 and is run by composer-lyricist William Finn in collaboration with Boyd. All I can say is “Broadway Bounty Hunter’’ makes for one heck of a 10th anniversary celebration.
BROADWAY BOUNTY HUNTER
Music and lyrics by Joe Iconis. Book by Iconis, Lance Rubin, and Jason SweetTooth Williams.
Directed by Julianne Boyd. Choreographed by Jeffrey Page.
Presented by Barrington Stage Company at St. Germain Stage, Sydelle and Lee Blatt Performing Arts Center, Pittsfield. Through Sept. 4. Tickets $20-$52, 413-236-8888, www.barringtonstageco.org
Don Aucoin can be reached at email@example.com.