|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