Saturday, June 6, 2015

Shoulda Been You: A Madcap Wedding Musical

There's a little musical on Broadway that's been holding its own this season against the big guns.
It doesn't have a huge cast; it doesn't boast a big orchestra; the costumes and the scenery won't dazzle you and it hasn't been nominated for a single Tony award.
Yet, this musical has been rolling along nicely for the past few months and now will even be featured on Sunday's Tony Awards with a number from the show.
What is about It Shoulda Been You?
Well, it does star Broadway and TV legend Tyne Daly with a fine ensemble cast including Tony winner Harriet Harris, Lisa Howard, Sierra Boggess, David Burtka, Montego Glover, Chip Zien, Edward Hibbert and Josh Grisetti as possibly the most sympathetic, likable character in the whole cavalcade. And the entire madcap affair is briskly directed by Tony winner David Hyde Pierce.
The show advertises itself as "being complete with blushing brides, nervous grooms, overbearing moms, unexpected guests, and enough twists and turns to make even the most experienced wedding planner throw up his hands and say 'holy matrimony.'" In fact, it claims that "in the history of totally insane wedding days, this one takes the cake."
Yes, it all happens within the confines of one set (the hotel where the wedding's being held) over the course of one day. And, just to make the point there is no intermission as the show flies along during a zany100 minutes.
Sure, we've all heard of the wedding where the bride and groom were somewhat mismatched. And then there's the jilted ex-lover; the families that don't get along; the domineering mother-of-the-bride; the alcoholic relatives; the chubby, forgotten sister; the groom and best man who seem to have a bit more than a bromance; the daffy uncle; the clueless father-of-the-bride and the sex-starved aunt. Well, this show has them all, and then some. They're all here and sometimes you need a scorecard to keep track of them.
There are lots of doors and lots of quick entrances and exits in It Shoulda Been You. And there are even a few big numbers including Jenny's Blues, belted to the far reaches of the theater in a tour de force by Lisa Howard. Plus, Daly delivers from start to finish especially near the show's conclusion when she reminds us of What They Never Tell You. What's more, Montego Glover and Nick Spangler are wildly over-the-top in the hilarious Love You Till the Day.
But much of the show seems calculated (if not downright manipulative) and, like far too much of Broadway these days it winds up being politically-correct and even preachy. Since this is a show about marriage we don't need to tell you where and how it chooses to be preachy, do we?
Be forewarned: The surprise ending is [almost] beyond preposterous.
Anyway, the cast is more than up to the challenge. It's all quick-witted. There are some tender, human moments that give us a faint hint of pathos. And you laugh lots even when you're wondering what it's really all about.

One more note: We can't understand exactly what makes It Shoulda Been You more successful than Honeymoon In Vegas which opened this season and closed far too soon.
Once again, here's our review of 'Honeymoon':

Rob McClure is the perfect musical comedy star.
One minute he's all limber, like Ray Bolger or Martin Short. The next, he's wisecracking like Nathan Lane. And then, before you know it he's as nasal and as nebbishly lovable as Matthew Borderick.
You'd never mistake him for a matinee idol.
But with his tousled hair, expressive eyebrows, broad grin and endearing mannerisms he defies his diminutive frame and triumphs from the first row of the orchestra all the way up to the last seat in the balcony. He's a lightening bolt of energy powerful enough to warm the whole Nederlander Theatre this winter.
And when he steps forward at the beginning of Broadway's new madcap musicalHoneymoon In Vegas and sings "I Love Betsy," he takes the most clever lyrics that Broadway has heard in years and weaves them into a combination of charm and chutzpah that generates instant appeal.
For McClure's performance alone, Honeymoon is worth the price of admission.
But this musical sendup of the 1992 movie of the same name has lots more going for it: The lovely Brynn O'Malley as McClure's love interest, unforgettable comic turns by Nancy Opel, Matthew Saldivar and David Josefsberg; a big, brassy, first-rate orchestra up on stage; and the well-earned, toe-tapping star power of Tony Danza as McLure's nemisis. On top of all that the show boasts a truly funny book by Andrew Bergman, tuneful music and inventive lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, great sets by Anna Louizos and the spot-on direction of Gary Griffin.
But, playing off one another McClure and Danza actually propel the show with O'Malley as the perfect, pulchritudinous part of an unlikely love triangle.
It all begins when on her deathbed, a mother (Opel) makes her son (McClure/Jack) promise never to get married. This promise haunts him and triggers psychological blocks to a commitment with his girlfriend (O'Malley/Betsy). Still, on the spur of the moment the couple finally decide to tie the knot in Vegas. But once there, a seemingly wealthy gambler and con artist (Danza/Tommy) arranges for the about-to-be-groom to lose a fortune in a poker game. Tommy then offers to clear Jack's debt in return for a weekend with Betsy. Suddenly Jack agrees (sort of) but then becomes wildly jealous, and pursues his fiancée and her much older companion all the way to Hawaii where Jack finds pitfalls in his path as the gambler tries to delay his interference. That's where the Flying Elvises come in, but we don't want to give away the ending.
This is the kind of zany tale that gave birth to musical comedy in the first place. This is why Broadway was born and this is how Cole Porter wrote funny, unforgettable songs for shows such as Anything Goes. And you will think of tunesmiths like Porter and Loesser and Comden and Green when you hear Danza sing "Out of the Sun" or you hear other numbers like "Everyday Is Happy In Hawaii," and "Friki Friki" and "Airport Song." They're truly comedy in song.
But you'll also hear new ballads such as "Forever Starts Tonight" and "You Made the Wait Worthwhile."
Yes, this April-December hookup over a gambling "debt" may be a bit of a stretch. And yes, the second act does lag somewhat. And yes, the 1992 Vegas of the movie and the 2015 Vegas of the musical get tossed together in a sometimes confusing clash of eras.
But with McClure's ready-to-please boundlessness and Danza's sure-footed take on a soft-hearted wiseguy, this is a show that combines music and comedy with just the right touch.
And, you may actually exit this original musical humming a new tune. When was the last time that happened?

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