BWW Reviews: IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU is Terrifically Funny
"Old situations, new complications," promised Stephen Sondheim a half a century ago when offering Broadway audiences a comedy tonight.
Indeed, the sharp and hilarious new musical comedy by Brian Hargrove (book and lyrics) and Barbara Anselmi (music), It Shoulda Been You, utilizes a lot of old - or shall we call them "classic" - situations in telling its story of a wedding day that almost goes disastrously haywire. But just as you're comfortably settled in for a night of sitcom zingers and zippy melodies, the neat little twists start piling up.
Most prominent and appreciated is the central character's battle against low self-esteem due to body-shaming. Lisa Howard beautifully embodies the emotional heart of the evening as plus-sized Jenny Steinberg, who is genuinely happy that her younger sister is getting married while passively enduring jabs from her mother telling he she could get a husband too if she lost some weight.
Howard gives you someone to root for amidst the zany antics performed by the top-shelf cast of thirteen. Most of them are playing types we've seen them play before, but the exceptional work of this company, directed by David Hyde Pierce (who knows a bit about sitcom acting and performing in musicals), squeezes every humorous possibility out of the material.
Tyne Daly is the mother of the bride, juggling pushiness and passive aggression as needed. Her menschy husband is played by the guy who invented menschy husbands in musicals, Chip Zien. ("Your mother and I had words, but I didn't get to use any of mine.")
With one family Jewish, it's only proper that the other be on the WASPy side. Harriet Harris is a scream as the cocktailing, borderline anti-Semitic mother of the groom who is so reluctant to give her little boy to another woman that she tried to raise him to be gay. Michael X. Martin is her businesslike husband who never established a loving relationship with his son and is in a rush to bond with him right away, for financial reasons.
Sierra Boggess and David Burtka are the bride and groom, and while her shimmering soprano doesn't receive sufficient exposure, he gets a snappy moment to display his charming song and dance man skills. Montego Glover and Nick Spangler are also a bit underutilized as the frisky maid of honor and best man.
Josh Grisetti gets a wild entrance and shows his great flair for eccentric comedy as the bride's ex, beloved by her family and trying to convince her not to go through with the wedding.
The music is attractive and energetic and the songs serve the comic situations very well. There are five other lyricists credited along with Hargrove and the results are generally favorable, but it's the talent of the sensational cast that sends the musical moments over the top.
With plenty of good laughs and just enough sentiment to warm the heart, It Shoulda Been You is thoroughly enjoyable.