Friday, April 17, 2015

Review of "It Shoulda Been You"

It Shoulda Been You, the new Broadway musical, is a throwback to an earlier age when lightweight fare would regularly open and stay around for the season before interest waned and the show quietly closed.  Don’t be surprised if this production lingers at the Brooks Atkinson theater for the summer before becoming a memory by early fall. 

It Shoulda Been You is a good-humored musical with a pleasing, but not very memorable score; and a very fine, but underutilized cast stocked with Broadway veterans and younger, yet accomplished, performers.

The action centers on the upcoming nuptials of Judy and Murray Steinberg’s (Tyne Daly and Chip Zien) 30 year-old daughter (Sierra Boggess).  She is set to marry 30 year-old Brian Howard (David Burtka), the son of Georgette and George Howard (Harriet Harris and Michael X. Martin).  She’s Jewish.   He’s not, which leads to a clash of cultures, faith, and provides fuel for constantly well-placed zingers.  Furthering the chaos and upheaval is the bride’s former lover (Josh Grisetti), intent on stopping the marriage vows, the obedient, weight challenged older daughter (Lisa Howard) and the flippant Best Man (Nick Spangler) and Maid of Honor (Montego Glover).  Mix in a show-stopping surprise and you have all the ingredients for a frisky, cheerful, yet meager romp.

Book writer Brian Hargrove infuses enough jokes and amusing situations to keep the audience entertained.  The only twist to this well-worn tale is the subject of gay marriage, which is provided both as comic effect and social commentary.  The brief step into the seriousness of the issue momentarily impedes the storyline and should have been simply jettisoned.  In a sense, you can’t have your wedding cake and eat it too.

The cast is outstanding, but they are divided into the haves and have nots.  The haves are those performers with more fully developed characters that help propel the action on stage.  They also have some of the best lines of the production.  They include Tyne Daly as the in-your-face Jewish mother, tart-tongued, and as bossy as they come; Edward Hibbert as the highly efficient, problem-solving wedding planner; and Lisa Howard as the long-suffering older daughter.  The have nots are Harriet Harris as the tipsy mother of the groom, Sierra Boggess as the fretful bride; Montego Glover as the worrying Maid of Honor; and Josh Grisetti as the former lover of the bride.  Each of these actors are so talented, yet their abilities are greatly underutilized in their supporting roles.  I was especially disappointed with Josh Grisetti’s character.  Finally making his Broadway debut this very funny, triple threat actor, a Ray Bolger type presence, is not given a chance to really shine and show his wares.  Hopefully, some producer will scoop him up to much better effect.

The score by Brian Hargrove and Barbara Anselmi is serviceable and playful with some hummable moments.  But this is second tier Broadway music and lyrics with too much inconsequential frivolity.

Director David Hyde-Pierce, making his Broadway debut in this role, skillfully takes command of the musical.  All his years as a deft comic performer serves him well as he guides his troupe of actors and actresses through their paces.  He makes good use of the multi-tiered set with its numerous entranceways and doorways onto the stage.  There could be slightly less running back and forth and here and there but, overall, his initial outing as director is a success.  Let’s see what he can do when given better material to work with.

It Shoulda Been You, a trifling production that coulda been so much more.

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