NEW YORK — Zach Braff will make his Broadway debut next year in a musical adaptation of Woody Allen's crime caper "Bullets Over Broadway." The only person who might be more excited than Braff is his dad.
"If my father loved two things most, it was Woody Allen movies and Broadway musicals," Braff said by phone from Los Angeles. "When I called my father, I said, 'Are you sitting down?'"
Written by Allen and Douglas McGrath, the story follows a struggling young playwright who is forced to cast a mobster's talentless girlfriend in his latest drama. Braff will play the hero, portrayed by John Cusack in the 1994 film.
"It's thrilling," Braff says. "I keep waking up expecting it to be a dream."
Five-time Tony Award-winner Susan Stroman will direct and choreograph the show, which will start performances in March 2014 at the St. James Theatre. The show will feature a full orchestra playing music of the 1920s.
The musical sees Braff return to his acting roots: He played Allen's son in one scene when he was 18 in the film "Manhattan Murder Mystery" before going to Northwestern University to study film.
"If you would have asked me a couple months ago 'What are your dreams as an actor?' I would have said, 'I'd love to do a Broadway musical one day and I'd love to work with Woody Allen again.' When I got the call from Woody and Susan Stroman, my head sort of exploded."
The rest of the cast will be made up of Vincent Pastore ("The Sopranos"), Betsy Wolfe ("The Mystery of Edwin Drood"), Lenny Wolpe ("The Drowsy Chaperone") and Helene Yorke ("Grease").
Braff grew up in northern New Jersey and caught the performing bug from his father, a lawyer who did community theater for fun. Though he's never done musical theater professionally, Braff often sang as the daydreaming Dr. John "J.D." Dorian on "Scrubs" and he won a Grammy Award for best compilation soundtrack for "Garden State." He says he's already started working with a vocal coach.
After "Scrubs," Braff filmed the dark indie "High Cost of Living" and acted in the off-Broadway play "Trust" and had a part in Sam Raimi's "Oz the Great and Powerful."
Braff also penned a play of his own, "All New People," his first piece of original writing since the 2004 film "Garden State," his sweet ode to disillusionment starring himself and Natalie Portman. "All New People" had a run off-Broadway in 2011 and was later mounted in London, with Braff starring.
Braff this spring turned to the crowd-funding site Kickstarter to raise $2 million in three days to fund his film, "Wish I Was Here" a follow-up to "Garden State." He says he'll work on the film for the rest of the year before hitting Broadway, and he hopes "Wish I Was Here," which he co-wrote with his brother Adam, will be due out in the fall of 2014.
In the meantime, he has a date with Broadway. It's something his father might be interested in, too. "I said to Woody, 'He'll be there more than you.' I said, 'I might need a cot for my father between the matinees and the evening show.'"