Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Broadway Theater Review: It Shoulda Been You

Chip Zien, Tyne Daly, Harriet Harris, Michael X. Martin. Photo: Joan Marcus
It Shoulda Been Funnier; It Shoulda Been a Hit
By  Lauren Yarger
A star-studded ensemble featuring Tyne Daly, Sierra Boggess and Montego Glover takes the stage at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre for a new musical directed by David Hyde Pierce . Sounds like is should be a great night at the theater, but It Shoulda Been You isn't as good as it coulda/should been, so we are as dissatisfied at all the misfits who show up for this doomed wedding.

The music and book are by a relatively unknown team: Barbara Anselmi and Brian Hargrove. None of the 19  musical numbers in the 100-minute, no intermission production stood out and I kept thinking the show would work much better as a straight play, which Pierce, with his weath of comedic talent, probably could have shaped into something more.

Rebecca Steinberg (Boggess) is getting married to Brian Howard (David Burtka). Get it. She's Jewish; he's not. Their families aren't happy. Georgette Howard (a very snooty Harriet Harris) and her husband, George, (Michael X. Martin) muster up their courage to mingle with the Steinbergs, but Georgette manages to throw some zingers their way. She wishes her son had been gay so he wouldn't replace her with another woman; George wants his son to have Rebecca sign a pre-nup. Things kind of go downhill fast.

Murray Steinberg (Chip Zien) tries to keep his formidable, insult-throwing wife, Judy (Daly) calm and their daughter, Jenny (Lisa Howard), tries to keep family fireworks off of the program of her sister's big day as she teams with a wedding planner extraordinaire, Albert (a comedic Edward Hibbert), to keep things running smoothly. at  the St. George Hotel (designed by Anna Louizos). William Ivey Long provides the costume design.

Complicating matters is the arrival of Rebecca's ex -- also and Jenny's best friend -- Marty Kaufman (Josh Grisetti), who wants to stop the wedding. (And believe me, until his funny arrival, this show is about as fun as being seated at the kids table at a wedding reception.)  There are a bunch of other characters thrown in too, like Uncle Morty (Adam Heller), Aunt Sheila (Anne L. Nathan), and the maid of honor and best man, Annie Shepherd (a criminally underused Glover who lit up the stage in Memphis) and Greg Madison  (Nick Spangler).

But all is not as it seems and suddenly the real reasons for the wedding are revealed and the families must decide whether they can accept their children's choices and their definition of family, and love them unconditionally.

Lisa Howard gives an affecting performance as the overweight second daughter used to playing second fiddle to her beautiful, preferred sister, who doesn't believe anyone thinks she is beautiful. She doesn't think she deserves a chance at love. The actress received a Drama Desk nomination for Best Actress and  Daly and Grisetti got nods in the Featured Actor categories for both Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards. Standing out to me, however, are servants played by Heller and Nathan who steal the comedy in scenes with very minor parts.

It Shoulda Been You, which received an Outer Critics Circle nomination for Best Musical as well as nominations for book, score and direction, plays at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, 256 West 47th St., NYC. Performances are Tuesday and Thursday at 7 pm; Wednesday at 2 and 8 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets are $59 - $132: http://www.itshouldabeenyou.com.

Christians might also like to know:
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Homosexual activity
-- 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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