Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Margin Notes: It Shoulda Been You

Lisa Howard and Tyne Daly as Jenny and Judy.
Photo by Joan Marcus.
It Shoulda Been You

Seen on: Monday, 3/23/15.
My grade: D+. A convoluted and unfunny book, pedestrian songs, rescued in part by a talented cast, but there's only so much they can salvage.

Plot and Background
There's the bride, the groom, the bride's controlling and hypercritical mother, the groom's possessive dipsomaniac mother, the bride's overlooked and overweight sister, the two beleaguered fathers, the bride's ex, the best man and maid of honor, and the omniscient wedding planner with his two wise-cracking assistants. Hijinks, secret plans, and plot twists ensue. Did I leave anything out? Oh yes, there's also a bit of Jews vs. Gentiles. This show played previously at the George Street Playhouse in in New Jersey in 2011, with some of the same cast. This marks the Broadway directorial debut for David Hyde Pierce.

What I Knew Beforehand
I knew it was a big ensemble cast full of actors I've enjoyed, and that it was about a wedding.


Play: I wanted to enjoy this more than I did, but the jokes weren't consistently funny, the songs barely ever interesting, and the characters were more often than not archetypes rather than unique individuals. And honestly I feel like a lot of the plot twists would have played more interestingly had the audience been in on them from the start. I don't have a whole lot to say beyond that, because the show just didn't grab me, so I'm going to take a slight tangent to talk about a bit of a beef I had. Apologies. I was particularly disappointed in the writing for the character of Jenny, the bride's sister, a woman who was a size or three larger than her ingenue sister. Her mother, in stereotypical Jewish Mother Mode, regularly berates her for not trying hard enough, etc etc etc, and treating any imperfection of appearance as a character flaw. And obviously this perspective exists, and is prevalent in the world, but - just once I'd like to see a story where a character starts out owning herself, and where that perspective, that toxic type of opinion is dismissed out of hand, is not given a shred of validity by any other character. Instead, it followed the same stereotypical path of Jenny wrapping her entire sense of self-worth on how others view her, and it's not until she's pronounced beautiful by her mother at the end, that you get the sense she's gained any real lasting sense of self esteem. I wish her character had had any more defining feature than "overweight and self-esteem wrapped around that fact" because I think it's fantastic that we got a show where the protagonist was not your typical leading lady. But she needs more definition than this. She needs a better story than this.

Cast: That being said, Lisa Howard was fantastic as Jenny, funny and spiky and in terrific voice. Tyne Daly and Harriet Harris were delicious as the two dueling mothers and tried their best with weak material. Montego Glover was disappointingly underused as the bride's co-maid of honor, for the fact that she's Montego Glover and marvelously talented. David Burtka and Nick Spangler, as the groom and his best man, both had a charming dopishness to them.

Design: Anna Louizos' two-tiered hotel set was both elegant and incredibly versatile, allowing for a wide variety of stage pictures, and so many different doorways and balconies from which characters could overhear things they shouldn't be hearing (spoilers!). William Ivey Long's wedding-fare costumes were sumptuous and flattering (further belying the bride's mother's criticisms, for the record).


Running: Now playing at Brooks AtkinsonTheatre - Opening April 14, 2015.
Category: musical
Length: 1 hour, 50 minutes (no intermission).

Creative Team

Book and Lyrics: Brian Hargrove
Music: Barbara Anselmi
Director: David Hyde Pierce
Designers: Josh Rhodes (Choreography), Anna Louizos (Set), William Ivey Long (Costume), Ken Billington (Lighting), Nevin Steinberg (Sound), Doug Besterman (Orchestrations).
Cast: Tyne Daly, Harriet Harris, Sierra Boggess, Lisa Howard, David Burtka, Montego Glover, Chip Zien, Josh Grisetti, Adam Heller, Michael X. Martin, Anne L. Nathan, Nick Spangler, Edward Hibbert, Farah Alvin, Gina Ferrall, Aaron C. Finley, Mitch Greenberg, Jillian Louis.

Sierra Boggess, Nick Spangler, Montego Glover, and David Burtka as
Rebecca, Greg, Annie, and Brian. Photo by Joan Marcus.

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