Monday, February 2, 2015

Broadway Theater Review: Honeymoon in Vegas

Tony Danza, Rob McClure and the Company of Honeymoon in Vegas. Photo: Joan Marcus


Will Tony Danza’s Honeymoon on Broadway Last?
By Lauren Yarger
It’s got a score by Jason Robert Brown (The Bridges of Madison County; The Last five Years), a great cast (including Tony Danza, star of  TV’s “Who’s the Boss”) and is based on a popular movie of the same title, so why is Broadway’s Honeymoon in Vegas struggling to win a following?

The show received rave reviews in its pretrial run at Papermill Playhouse in New Jersey, and buzz in the industry circles then had the show --  and Danza -- walking off with Tony Awards in 2015. The move to Broadway, however, had producers wringing their hands as box office numbers were low – so low that news stories following Danza’s publicity appearances in Time Square made it sound as though the actor were begging for people to buy seats.

Positive reviews from New York critics following the show’s official opening on Broadway have boosted ticket sales a bit (grosses for that week show capacity at about 71 percent), but the buzz still seems to be that the show is struggling to find its footing (it apparently is switching press representatives in a quest to boost box office).  So is the honeymoon over?

Well, that buzz is important and can close a show, so we’ll see. Meanwhile, I found Honeymoon in Vegas to be entertaining and a chance to sit back and revel in the feel of an old-fashioned musical, right from the opening notes of an overture played by a small orchestra on the stage (musical direction by Tom Murray; orchestrations by Don Sebesky, Larry Blank and Charlie Rosen)  to parachuting Elvis impersonators (Flying by Foy) to a tap-dancing Danza.

The plot is a bit sketchy, but it is based on the 1992 film. Book writer Andrew Bergman, who is adapting his screenplay, is no stranger to reality-stretched plots (he co-wrote “Blazing Saddles,” for heaven’s sake) and quickly establishes that we aren’t to take things too seriously. There are the scantily clad showgirls (costume design by Brian Hemesath, hair and wig design by Charles G. Lapointe) to clue us in.

Stealing most of the scenes here are Rob McClure (who dazzled in Chaplin) as Jack Singer, a nice guy who wants to ask his girlfriend, Betsy Nolan (Brynn O'Malley), to marry him, and Nancy Opel as his controlling mother, Bea, who, on her deathbed, prohibits him from marrying. Jack tries to work up the courage to defy his mother (who amusingly haunts him thanks to set and prop design by Anna Louizos and Kathy Fabian of Propstar) and takes Betsy to Vegas to do the deed. While there, however, Betsy catches the eye of conman gambler Tommy Korman (Danza). Betsy, it seems, is the spitting image of his dearly beloved and departed wife.

With the help of his henchman, Johnny Sandwich (Matthew Saldivar), Tommy manages to “win” a weekend with Betsy from Jack in a hand of poker and flies her off to his Hawaiian estate with Jack in hot pursuit. (Louizos’ sets are enhanced by projections and make for easy transitions). Kudos to Bergman for adding a couple of lines for Betsy to question how she ended up being a piece of property to be wagered between the two men. So often we are just asked to assume that women are OK with being used.

Will Jack and Betsy ever get together? Will Tommy win her over with his charm? Will Bea ever rest in peace?

The answers to these, and other fairly easy-to-answer questions, are wedded in between more than 20 musical numbers with varying styles and some really funny lyrics by Brown. The score is an unusual one for him, though, in that it takes a back seat to the antics on stage and isn’t full of long, sweeping and soaring melodies.

Truth be told, I don’t remember any of the music; and maybe that’s why the show is struggling. The story on its own isn’t the stuff of which Broadway musicals are made and Danza, though he was popular as Judith Light’s single-father maid on “Who’s the Boss,” may not be a big enough star to get away with not having a Broadway singing voice, even if he is charming. McClure, with impeccable comedic timing and the multi-talented Opel are the ones to watch here. If you want to catch them, I recommend a quick trip to the box office, though. If the buzz doesn’t get better, this one might struggle to stay open through the Tony season.

Honeymoon in Vegas plays at the Nederlander Theatre, 208 West 41st St., NYC.  Performances are Tuesday and Thursday at 7 pm; Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Wednesday and Saturday at 2 pm; Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets: $77.75 - $161.75; http://www.honeymoonbroadway.com.


Christians might also like to know:
-- Sexual situations and lyrics
-- Lord's name taken in vain
-- Scantily clad women
-- The Lord is thanked for a straight flush in a poker game
-- Language

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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