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Review Roundup: HONEYMOON IN VEGAS Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!

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Honeymoon in Vegas, the eagerly anticipated new musical comedy with book by Blazing Saddles and Fletch writer Andrew Bergman and score by three-time Tony Award-winner Jason Robert Brown, opens tonight, January 15, at Broadway's Nederlander Theatre (208 West 41st Street).

The cast of Honeymoon in Vegas includes Tony Award nominee Rob McClure, Brynn O'Malley, Emmy and Golden Globe nominee Tony Danza, David Josefsberg, Nancy Opel, Matthew Saldivar, Matt Allen, Tracee Beazer, Grady McLeod Bowman, Barry Busby, Leslie Donna Flesner, Gaelen Gilliland, Albert Guerzon, Sean Allan Krill, Raymond J. Lee, George Merrick, Jessica Naimy, Zachary Prince, Catherine Ricafort, Jonalyn Saxer, Brendon Stimson, Erica Sweany, Cary Tedder, and Katie Webber.

Honeymoon in Vegas tells the story of Jack Singer (McClure), a regular guy with an extreme fear of marriage, who finally gets up the nerve to ask his girlfriend Betsy (O'Malley) to marry him. But when they head to Las Vegas to get hitched, smooth talking gambler Tommy Korman (Danza), looking for a second chance at love, falls head over heels for Betsy. What happens next is anybody's bet!

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld: Fifteen months ago the news out of Milburn, New Jersey's Paper Mill Playhouse was that composer/lyricist Jason Robert Brown, most known for musicalizing emotional subjects like a Southern lynching or the crumbling of a five-year romance, had, just for the moment, dumped the artsy stuff for a big fat hilarious musical comedy. Thank the theatre gods that what happened in Jersey didn't stay in Jersey.

Ben Brantley, The New York Times: As embodied by the bright and bouncy new musical "Honeymoon in Vegas"...the world capital of gambling and neon is everything you want it to be. That means a little hip, a little square, a little dangerous, a little kitschy and a whole lotta delicioussh fun...But here's the bonus, in which East (Coast) meets West: This production is also a real-live, old-fashioned, deeply satisfying Broadway musical in a way few new shows are anymore...Mr. Brown...here finds a shiny, fertile common ground between brassiness according to Broadway and to Las Vegas. His songs seamlessly propel plot and define character in the way numbers did in the heyday of Rodgers and Hammerstein. But he often inflects them with the ring-a-ding swell and swing you associate with Frank Sinatra recordings from the late 1950s and early '60s. He's not just quoting or sending up that style; he's embracing it on his own terms as a keen-eared fan of today. And in a breakout performance, Mr. Danza...matches the nuanced flash of the music.

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: Its frothiness is initially enjoyable until it becomes silly and then tiresome, before sparking back to life toward the end. Ultimately, the show feels slight. Much of the most infectious stuff comes from composer-lyricist Jason Robert Brown, whose talent as a songsmith is sharper than his nose for a winning property. Brown's songs are more catchy than memorable, but their lyrics are clever and droll...In the leading role of Jack Singer, the excellent Rob McClure works hard and is a winning nebbish...However, as Betsy, Brynn O'Malley seems not quite a natural for this kind of screwy comedy...the costume, hair and makeup team has SJPed all over her, hardening the attractive brunette into a tough-looking blonde...Danza strikes a nice balance between suave and sleazy...The Taxi and Who's the Boss? star's sitcom timing gets put to good use, and while his vocals are on the thin side, he carries a tune with confidence...Danza tackles the role with laidback Sinatra-style panache, and it works.

Marilyn Stasio, Variety: "Honeymoon In Vegas" answers gloomy Gotham's crying need for some good old lowbrow farce -- the kind of show with silly songs, mindless physical comedy and towering showgirls in feather headdresses. Scribe Andrew Bergman has turned his not-quite-cult 1992 movie...into a not-quite-knockout Broadway musical. But with catchy tunes and clever lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, sweet comic turns from Rob McClure and Tony Danza, and a bevy of Elvis impersonators, this brassy little show might brighten up this town over the winter.

Elysa Gardner, USA Today: Vegas' ace in the hole is the duly beloved TV vet Tony Danza, who makes Tommy much warmer than James Caan did on screen -- more of a mensch, and thus a more viable rival in pursuing Nick's fiancée, Betsy. When Danza sings, serviceably, or breaks into a tap-dance routine, he sails on pure charm...McClure is energetic and endearing throughout, as is leading lady Brynn O'Malley, whose Betsy is sharper and brighter than Sarah Jessica Parker's was. Jason Robert Brown's generic-sounding score, which can veer on caricature in nodding to Rat Pack-era Vegas, and Andrew Bergman's unabashedly hokey book don't offer them, or the supporting players, a lot of meat...As empty-calorie musicals go, you could do worse than this Honeymoon.

Robert Kahn, NBC New York: Tony Danza...engages in crowd-pleasing, low-impact tap dancing, strums a ukulele and makes a valiant effort at singing (the show's big numbers aren't written with him in mind). As it is, the most killer thing about Danza is his threads...Meanwhile, the hero, a mama's boy who self-identifies as a "schmuck"...McClure sells this show every moment he's on stage...As Betsy, the schoolteacher eager for Jack to put a ring on it already, O'Malley has all the best qualities of a leading lady. The supporting cast members are stand-outs...Composer Brown has crafted an exceptional score, particularly in its more morbid incarnations..."I Love Betsy," meanwhile, is as charming a curtain-raiser as I've seen this millennium, with its instantly recognizable urban homages, down to the D'Agostino delivery cart. Brown's legion of fans are apt to consider this one of his finer achievements, in spite of the source material's garish qualities..."Vegas" ends up feeling a lot like "Bullets Over Broadway"...though at the end of the day this new musical has the benefit of a novel original score.

Linda Winer, Newsday: "Honeymoon in Vegas," based on the 1992 film, is an unexpectedly delightful, thoroughly conventional movie spinoff that isn't hard-selling anything more than a good time created by experts. Tony Danza, no joke, is a pro...And director Gary Griffin ("The Color Purple") has an inventive idea for every location-hopping improbable moment without losing the show's easygoing likability. And then there is the supper-club jazzy/old-time Broadway score by Jason Robert Brown...Here he writes new songs that seem as if they ought to be old-time brassy standards, except for the nonstop-clever, up-to-the-minute lyrics for outrageous farce and sweet ballads...Rob McClure ("Chaplin") is virtuosically understated as Jack, a nice Brooklyn guy who loves Betsy, a nice schoolteacher, embodied by Brynn O'Malley with down-to-earth slinkiness...Despite all these original spins on a familiar brand, the show has not been selling during previews. Perhaps it will now.

David Cote, Time Out NY: Honeymoon in Vegas is too damn fun to keep secret. Jason Robert Brown's big and brassy score borrows gleefully from the obvious sources -- Sinatra, Mancini and Liberace -- and splices that swingin' lounge vibe with his own bouncy, wryly neurotic voice...it's a thrill to see his musical craft and depth in the service of so much splendid silliness. Because let's face it: Andrew Bergman's book, which hews closely to the bones of his 1992 screenplay, is goofy stuff...But it's very funny...The cast is superb, and what Danza lacks in strong vocal chops he makes up for in charm and characterful crooning. Gary Griffin's frisky staging abounds in sight gags and gorgeous chorus girls. In terms of sheer bubbly fun, Honeymoon ranks up there with some of my favorite new musical comedies on the job The Full Monty, Hairspray or In the Heights, and recent ones The Book of Mormon and A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder. Broadway may be a crapshoot, but Honeymoon hits the jackpot.

Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Daily News: There's plenty to like about the new Broadway arrival "Honeymoon in Vegas." That goes double for the terrific score...If only the overall production were sexier, funnier and more surprising. As is, the show, directed by Gary Griffin ("The Color Purple") is cute and old-fashioned, a good time...Jason Robert Brown...deserves huzzahs for making the kicky musical cocktail of catchy melodies and clever lyrics that drive this show. The songs smartly change tempo and tone, shifting from classic showtunes to jazzy stylings to island breeziness as the action moves from New York to Nevada to Hawaii...Griffin's production speeds along efficiently...But the director trips up occasionally on nonessential material...The three leads lend charm and appeal. O'Malley is plucky and makes her "Anywhere But Here," a musical ultimatum, stand out...McClure ("Chaplin") gets the show off on a winning note with the tuneful "I Love Betsy," and goes full-throttle from then on out. Danza is a charmer with his Sinatra-like singing and tap-happy moments. He'll never convince as a bad guy, but Danza's the boss of good fun.

Elisabeth Vincentelli, New York Post: The rambunctious new musical "Honeymoon in Vegas" is old-fashioned and proud of it. A big orchestra pumps out a brassy, melodic score that nods to Sinatra's ba-da-bing days...Plus, come on -- Tony Danza's in it! If only parts of the story didn't cross the line between old-school and antediluvian...Director Gary Griffin keeps things moving at a fast clip and often inventively, and the tunes by Jason Robert Brown...have a catchy momentum...Things start dragging when Tommy enters the picture. Danza is game, crooning his way through a couple of Chairman of the Board-style ballads. He even pulls off a decent soft shoe. But his limited range of facial expressions undermines the comedy...the show owes a lot to McClure's tireless efforts. He's spectacularly limber -- watch him uncoil upright from a sitting-down position -- and his open, honest face makes us forgive, or at least overlook, Jack's stupidity. If this "Honeymoon" hangs on, it'll be in large part thanks to him.

Matt Windman, AM New York: Here and there, Brown offers an exciting, finely crafted song, and the show starts to soar. During those moments, you feel as though you're watching a modern-day "Guys and Dolls," and not yet another forgettable movie-turned-musical churned out for Broadway. But more often than not, "Honeymoon in Vegas" is mired in a pained attempt to enliven and exaggerate a simple but heartfelt boy-meets-girl/boy-loses-girl story into a broad, over-the-top musical comedy. There is an air of desperation to some of the antics...Tony Danza, as the card shark, has a congenial presence, but his character drags down the sparks flying between the dynamic Rob McClure and alluring Brynn O'Malley.

Jeremy Gerard, Deadline: You think they just don't make 'em like they used to? To find out how wrong you are, head to Broadway's Nederlander Theatre for a couple of hours of finger-snapping, tap-dancing, hip-swiveling, Elvis-impersonating, night-club crooning fun. That's what the musical adaptation of Honeymoon In Vegas promises and what it delivers, courtesy of an ingratiating performance by Tony Danza...Jason Robert Brown is terrifically talented but he's no Frank Loesser, and...Honeymoon In Vegas is no Guys & Dolls...the show has been struggling through weeks of poorly-attended previews that began before Thanksgiving, when it ought to have opened right away...The biggest toll was taken on Danza...He has a Sinatra-like stage presence, but in truth he's Sinatra's opposite: Warm, not cool; needy, not diffident. Those aren't necessarily bad things, but at the critic's preview his voice was pretty well shot and his dancing was unsteady...The balance of the show has gone much more in McClure's favor...

Jason Clark, Entertainment Weekly: ...it's a great surprise that the large-scale musical version of [Honeymoon in Vegas] is a frothy delight, a pineapple-sweet warm-up in this most frigid season...Director Gary Griffin, scenic designer Anna Louizos and costumer Brian Hemesath leave no set piece or wardrobe switcheroo unturned...and the production meets at just the right intersection of garish and glitzy. The loose vibe seems to have extended to composer Jason Robert Brown, concocting a jaunty score quite unlike his more contemplative, romantic works of late. Vegas has its share of missteps -- a few clunker lines, a still-slightly-sexist undertone...and what has to be the only showtune in history about skin cancer. But a gifted, generous cast puts the entire affair over...But Vegas's jackpot component is McClure...his sincere, alert comic timing and rubberman persona constantly keeps the production on its toes -- he's the veritable, lovable bull in this fitfully funny china shop. B+

Robert Hofler, TheWrap: Here and there, "Honeymoon in Vegas," the musical, is better than good, with most of the good being Jason Robert Brown's very plentiful score, which shows him in a much lighter, less ponderous mood than his work on "Parade," "The Last Five Years," and "The Bridges of Madison County"...He's committed to writing a traditional Broadway comedy score, and he fully succeeds, offering up witty lyrics with the occasionally laugh-out-loud rhymes, as well as jaunty tunes, some of which are sly riffs on beloved standards...Sad to say, the show also needs some radical recasting. Smarm needs charm, and none of the three principals have the latter...McClure doesn't delight, he just grins manically. O'Malley delivers one good silent comic moment, playing Tommy's overly tanned dead wife, but as Betsy she is made up to look like one of the more desperate Housewives of Orange County, which pretty much sums up her approach to the role. Danza can't sing or dance, but he seems to be enjoying himself immensely on stage. It's a kind of charm.

Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: This is, of course, an old-fashioned musical comedy, a genre not known for its progressive values. And the warm-centered tone of "Honeymoon" is never crass or sleazy. Still, this thing badly needed the safety of some chronological remove, especially given that it's women who buy most of the tickets to shows like this. It may seem like a weird transition to now say that much of "Honeymoon" is artful, but it's true. Brown's songs are packed with big-band energy, as if in tribute to old Vegas with all its good jobs for union musicians. Moreover, many of his lyrics are extremely amusing...In the lead role, McClure brings charm, energy and comic chops (when not overplaying). And then there's Danza, who is so clearly thrilled to be standing onstage. He's a fair singer and, all things considered, a classy tapper..."Honeymoon" would have been better off with a sharper satirical scalpel, something closer to that of Mel Brooks or "The Book of Mormon"...You can see bits and beginning of a potential edge...But in the end, the show does not want to go there.

Robert Feldberg, Bergen Record: There is one rousing scene in "Honeymoon In Vegas," near the end. A troupe of impersonators, the Flying Elvises - also the highlight of the film - fly toward Las Vegas, accompanied by a very nervous Jack, and prepare to parachute into the city. They perform an exuberant, super-charged Presley-like number, "Higher Love," led by the ebullient head Elvis (a marvelous David Josefsberg, who also plays the lounge singer). Song and story, verve and imagination, come together, and the result, for that moment, is musical-comedy bliss.

Alexis Soloski, Guardian: Perhaps you wouldn't notice if you had anything riding on the central pair. But McClure, an able actor, plays the part at such a pitch of neurotic schlubbiness that who cares if he gets the girl? And though O'Malley is a fine, leggy singer with calf muscles that could crack lobster claws, her Betsy is so bereft of character that what does it matter if she's gotten or not? Yet through it all there's Danza, effortlessly cool and obviously amused. His voice, thin and a little lunkish, is no great instrument, but he plays it like a jazz cat that's got the cream. He can even put over a tender ballad about skin cancer. And he can tap-dance, too. Well, kind of. Ladies and gentleman, this is what a high roller looks like.

Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal: Funny? You bet, and Mr. Brown has crunched the dramatic exposition of the film into a fast-moving sequence of musical numbers whose sterling craftsmanship is marvelous to behold, starting with one of the smartest list songs to hit Broadway in decades: "She likes hockey. No, I swear! / She likes guys with thinning hair! / And I love Betsy!" What's more, Ms. O'Malley, a stunningly sharp-witted stage performer whose talent has heretofore been squandered on second-banana parts, proves herself more than equal to the challenge of a starring role. She's almost reason enough to see "Honeymoon in Vegas," and Gary Griffin's on-the-button staging and Anna Louizos's deluxe sets display her to ideal advantage.

Jesse Green, Vulture: So Honeymoon in Vegas turns out to depend on the one element that wasn't part of the original property: the score. (The movie's soundtrack is mostly covers of Elvis hits.) Brown was the perfect choice for the job, one of the vanishingly small breed of post-Sondheim theater composers who are more than just post-Sondheims. Like the master, he's a musical dramatist, but his song models are poppier and here sound great in arrangements and orchestrations (by several hands, including his own) that recall both mid-century MGM and Nelson Riddle's Capitol years. But the gift of superb pastiche cuts two ways, and the reason Brown has not had a financial hit in all of his worthy Broadway at-bats (Parade, 13, The Bridges of Madison County) may be related to the reason his score for Vegas can't completely rescue the icky raw material. We are still awaiting the fullest expression of his own voice, not the one he must force through other people's stories.

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

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