Review: It Shoulda Been You' is inventive satire of weddings

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

NEW YORK (AP) — A good wedding might offer touching moments, tension, humor and perhaps some surprising revelations. All that and more is provided by the new musical "It Shoulda Been You," a frequently funny satire of wedding mishaps. It's smartly staged like an extended sitcom by David Hyde Pierce, making his Broadway directorial debut.

The irreverent comedy, which opened Tuesday night at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, is about two sets of parents from different backgrounds coming together to celebrate — unless they can destroy it first _  a wedding between their children.

Brian Hargrove's book and lyrics have moments of both wit and poignancy, as well as the occasional vulgarity and a sometimes contrived set of surprises. Barbara Anselmi, who also conceived the show, provides tuneful, sprightly music which creates an air of gaiety as the carefully planned Big Day unspools into farcical chaos. Along the way, everyone must deal with the pressure of expectations, disappointments and strained family dynamics.

An excellent cast transcends the sometimes predictable material. Tony- and Emmy Award-winner Tyne Daly is fiercely funny as Judy Steinberg, the outspoken, acerbic Jewish mother of the bride. She is well-matched against Tony-winner Harriet Harris, wickedly comedic as Waspy (in every sense) Georgette, the bitchy, alcoholic mother of the groom, whose barely-repressed anti-Semitism creates some of the bigotry that's foiled with tart humor throughout the musical.

The story centers on Jenny, the taken-for-granted older sister of the bride who is ceaselessly needled by her mother. Lisa Howard gives a brave, poignant performance as a plus-size, single woman who is quietly resentful of always being treated as a hopeless failure. She pours her heart out in the wistful song "Beautiful" and the audience is truly rooting for her by the time she belts out a soulful anthem, "Jenny's Blues."

Meanwhile, Sierra Boggess is sweetly nervous as bride-to-be Rebecca, who's hiding a pretty big secret which eventually halts the wedding reception. Boggess' sparkling musical talent is underutilized; she sings a touching duet with Howard called "Perfect" and, late in the show, a lovely ballad about honesty and fear, "A Little Bit Less Than."

Josh Grisetti is accomplished and zestful as Marty, Rebecca's nerdy ex-boyfriend, who bursts delightfully into the action and crashes the wedding preparations upon realizing she's about to get married. The title song is sung ruefully to Marty by Rebecca's parents, who really wanted their daughter to marry a nice Jewish boy.

The show has a brash, non-stop pace, and is nicely set on two floors of an elegant hotel, with plenty of doors to facilitate farcical running around. Edward Hibbert impishly portrays an omnipotent, seen-it-all wedding planner, who oozes delight when things go awry and he has to save the day yet again. As he happily warbles in "Albert's Turn," he's a "nuptial Houdini/conjuring in-laws and panini."

As trust-fund groom Brian, David Burtka is a bit bland, although game as Brian reluctantly navigates a soft-shoe number with his stereotypically cold, controlling father (played by Michael X. Martin). In pointed contrast, Chip Zien is warm and menschy as Murray Steinberg, father of Jenny and the bride. Broadway talents Montego Glover and Nick Spangler are also underutilized musically; as the best friends of the happy couple, they eventually share a rousing duet on the ironic wedding-reception song, "Love You Till the Day."

Even if you see many of the jokes coming a long way off, the sheer talent on display in "It Shoulda Been You" is worth snagging an invitation to this comically inventive wedding.