Vintage's 'Honeymoon' Lacks Glitz But Not Talent
Sometimes you don't need a lavish design to make a musical about Vegas play well. I mean, it would have definitely brought another level to Vintage Theatre's current musical production of Honeymoon in Vegas, but the cast is what gives this one its dazzle.
Written by Andrew Bergman, who also wrote the original campy 1992 movie of the same name, Honeymoon in Vegas centers around Jack and Betsy, a couple who should've been engaged already if it wasn't for Jack's mother, whose dying wish was that Jack remain unmarried. (She basically cursed him.) But Jack breaks his mother's vow, quickly jetting off to Vegas to get hitched to Betsy. However, when they arrive at the hotel, playboy gambler Tommy sees Betsy, who reminds him of his departed wife, and schemes to steal her from Jack by inviting him to a poker game, beating him with a royal flush. Tommy offers to forego Jack's $58k debt if he lets him spend a weekend with Betsy.
Without seeing the movie, the plot was a bit erratic for me. Aside from all the typical Vegas jokes, you've sporadic venture to Hawaii, where we find a "garden of disappointed mothers" and convenient skydiving Elvises. But hey, that's what makes the movie a classic.
Directed by Bernie Cardell, his smart casting is what made this one work for me. You've got an amiable Carter Edward Smith as Jack and an endearing Carmen Vreeman Shedd as Betsy. Brian Walker-Smith brings an impeccable sleaze-charm to Tommy, partnered with Michael O'Shea's vibrant Johnny Sandwich. Suzanne Connors Nepi is a riot as Jack's mother in every scene she steals. James Thompson's smooth vocals are a perfect fit for a Vegas showman.
And then you've got Emily Gerhard's Mahi and her side-splitting "Friki-Friki" that comes out of nowhere. Liz Brooks-Larsen and John White's sharply played airport scenes were my favorite. I can't think of a single ensemble member who didn't play a role that won me over.
The set was simpler than I'd hoped. Sure, there was a glitter curtain and enough room to make great use of enjoyable choreography by Jeffrey Parizotto and Stefanie Raccuglia, but I craved more opulence. When I think Vegas, I think over-the-top extravagance, and that mark was missed. The set actually felt unfinished.
While this one is far from my favorite Jason Robert Brown score, his ballads like Betsy's "Anywhere But Here" and Jack's "Isn't That Enough?" are standouts. There are also a few clever tunes like Tommy's "Out of the Sun" (comically referencing his wife's fatal skin cancer) and toe-tappers like "Betsy's Getting Married." For a show like this one, I can forgive the cheesiness of canned music, but a live band would have taken it to another level.
It's not a jackpot, but you'll still walk out feeling like a winner.
Honeymoon in Vegas plays Vintage Theatre (1468 Dayton St. in Aurora) through Dec 17. Tickets at VintageTheatre.org.
Photos by RDG Photography