Thursday, May 07, 2015

Review of "It Shoulda Been You" - Bring Your Mother, Your Mother-In-Law and Your Wife for Mothers' Day!

Principal Cast Members
"It Shoulda Been You"
Brooks Atkinson Theatre

Sometimes the whole is greater than the sum of its parts!  Such is the case with the delightful Broadway musical comedy "It Shoulda Been You."

  • Based on the stock characters that populate this play, IT SHOULDA BEEN BORING, but it was anything but boring!
  • Given the shop-worn plot premise - Jewish girl marries Irish Catholic lad - IT SHOULDA BEEN PREDICTABLE, but the delicious plot twists kept it fresh and hilarious.
  • Given the star quality of the actors portraying the two mothers, IT SHOULDA BEEN MERELY A VEHICLE FOR THEM TO STRUT THEIR STUFF, but it turns out to be a wonderful ensemble piece in which each performer has his or her time to shine.
  • Given the age-old jokes and sight gags, IT SHOULDA BEEN A GROANER, but it was a total delight from start to finish.
Can you tell that I loved the show much more than I had expected to love it?  On the day that I attended the show at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, the audience was enraptured and exuberant in their show of appreciation throughout the performance and at the curtain calls.

With a book and lyrics by Brian Hargrove and music and concept by Barbara Anselmi, Director David Hyde Pierce has crafted a show that should play for quite awhile if word of mouth spreads as it should. Tyne Daly and Harriet Harris anchor an excellent cast.  Anna Louizos has designed a wonderful set that made me think of "Plaza Suite."  There are several sumptuous levels of a hotel decked out for a wedding and a reception that may or may not take place.  Costumes by William Ivey Long are stylish and eye-catching..Lighting by Ken Billington and Sound by Nevin Steinberg enhance the versatile set.  Choreography is by  Josh Rhodes.  Musical Director and Arranger Lawrence Yurman conducts an excellent orchestra that keeps the pace of the show lively enough to keep the audience engaged throughout the shenanigans that take place on the stage..

The plot - with twists I will not reveal - revolves around both the Jewish family and the Catholic family trying to sabotage the wedding on the day of the nuptials.  The bride's ex-boyfriend - It Shoulda Been Him! - reappears and is also intent on putting a stop to the proceedings.  The bride's big-boned older sister is charged with working closely with a very experienced wedding planner to make sure that nothing goes wrong.  Throw in a few quirky relatives, an interesting mix of a Maid of Honor and a Best Man who are more than they appear to be at first blush, and we have a recipe for quite a tasty wedding cake.

Lisa Howard as Jenny
Sierra Boggess as Rebecca
"It Shoulda Been You"
Brooks Atkinson Theatre

One of the things that keeps this multi-tiered cake from collapsing on itself is the professionalism of this superb ensemble cast.  They deserve individual recognition.

  • Tyne Daly continues to do outstanding work.  She was magnificent in the recent "Mothers and Sons," and she brings a very different flavor and sensibility to the role of the uptight Jewish mother of the bride role in this show.  One of the delicious subplots is the instant animosity that develops between Ms. Daly's character and the mother of the groom, played by Harriet Harris. The two of them shoot verbal daggers and poisonous glances at one another from the moment they first face off.
  • Harriet Harris is a perfect dueling partner for Ms. Daly.  As Georgette Howard, Irish Catholic mother of the groom, she orchestrates her own machinations to try to ensure that the dreaded wedding never is consummated.  In fact, she does not ever want him to marry, but rather stay and care for her.  When a shocking plot twist is revealed that hits like a thunder bolt, it appears that one of her strategies has finally borne fruit.
  • Lisa Howard embodies Jenny Steinberg, the older sister of the bride. Jenny is perennially overshadowed by her more svelte and more beautiful little sister.  The play opens with Jenny sitting at a dressing table wearing a bridal veil. We soon realize that the veil belongs not to Jenny but to Rebecca.  Jenny sings the lament "I Never Wanted This," and we are instantly aware that Ms. Howard possesses a voice born for Broadway.  Her range, her projection, her ability to tell a story through song all serve to make this character the emotional heart of the show.  Later in the show, she gets to shine again in "Beautiful" and "Jenny's Blues."
  • Sierra Boggess is luminous as the bride, Rebecca Steinberg.  Highlights of her performance include her duet with her sister, Perfect" and "A Little Bit Less Than."
  • David Burtka plays the groom, Brian Howard..  He is intent on fulfilling the requirements of  a will that sets him up to inherit a significant fortune if he complies will the stipulations.  He shares a duet with his father, "Back In The Day."  Quiet on the surface, he harbors a secret that will emerge that sends tremors throughout the two extended families.
  • Michael X. Martin plays George Howard, father of the groom.  He spends much of the play trying to keep Georgette in check, and contributes admirably to the rousing old fashioned anthem "That's Family."
  • Chip Zien is Murray Steinberg, obsessed with making sure that everything is perfect and that everything for the wedding and reception is procured at a discount.
  • Nick Spangler is the Best Man, Greg Madison.  A highlight of the show is the duet that he and the Maid of Honor sing at the reception, "Love You Till The Day."
  • His partner in that duet is Montego Glover who plays Annie Shepard, the Maid of Honor.  She ends up playing a more significant role than we first imagined.
  • Edward Hibbert is Albert, the wedding planner.  Mr. Hibbert's histrionics and posing are so over the top that they would be off-putting if they were not so funny and arch.  His character is able to anticipate every need and every crisis, always being there to smooth things over just in time.  That is the case until the big plot twist is revealed, and he utters one of the best lines in the show: "I did not see that coming!"
  • Josh Grisetti plays Marty Kaufman, Rebecca's ex-boyfriend.  His entrance is memorable, and he is so good throughout the play that he almost steals the show.  There is a sense of justice in this development, since several shows were stolen from him.  He had been cast earlier in a few Broadway shows that all ended up being cancelled before they opened.  So in this, his Broadway debut, he shines brightly, and is amassing much critical acclaim and award recognition.  His duet with Jenny, "Who," and his solo number, "Whatever," are highlights. Watch for a bright future for this talented actor.
  • Adam Heller is the bombastic Uncle Morty, Anne L. Nathan is the randy Aunt Sheila and Mimsy.
Sierra Boggess as Rebecca

David Burtka as Brian
Montego Glover as Annie
Nick Spangler as Gregg
"It Shoulda Been You"
Brooks Atkinson Theatre

This play is one that would make a perfect Mothers' Day gift for your mother, mother-in-law, or wife. But if you can't make it this weekend, book ahead and make your own special occasion.  It is a good old fashioned musical with some very contemporary ornaments atop the wedding cake.  I encourage you to come and claim your slice of that special cake.

Chip Zien as Murray Steinberg
Anne L. Nathan as Aunt Sheila
Josh Grisetti as  Marty  Kaufman
Tyne Daly as Judy Steinberg
Adam Heller as Uncle Morty
"It Shoulda Been You"
Brooks Atkinson Theatre



No comments: