BWW Review: IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU at The Segal Centre for Performing Arts, Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre
This week, the Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre (DWYT) opened its production of It Shoulda Been You at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts in Montreal. This dedicated theatre company has offered the local and global theatre community, over 90 touring and in-house productions, sharing the Jewish experience and the Yiddish language. This year's production of It Shoulda Been You introduces a Yiddish script, skilfully translated by DWYT co-chairs Aron Gonshor and Edit Kuper, and is accompanied by English and French supertitles.
Originally premiering on Broadway in 2015, It Shoulda Been You features a group of relatable, funny and quirky characters, who attend an interfaith wedding between a Catholic groom and a Jewish bride. The not-so-subtle differences between the families, topped with familial tensions, relationship turmoil and a surprising plot twist, make for a delightful romantic comedy that not only entertains, but also brings important social issues to the forefront.
Highlights of the DWYT production include the well -featured Yiddish translation and standout musical numbers. The production team has provided stylish sets and costumes along with a dedicated ensemble of community performers. Musical Director Nick Burgess runs a tight ship with his talented group of musicians. Accomplished Director and Choreographer Jim White returns to the Segal Centre for the 8th time, having produced dynamic and beautiful choreography for previous shows like The Jazz Singer, Lies My Father Told Me, Guys and Dolls and On Second Avenue.
However, while the production succeeded in conveying the many effective individual elements of It Shoulda Been You, it struggled to form a cohesive whole that clearly communicated the depth, humour and message the original version intended. Set Designer Marjolaine Provencal created interior walls brushed with hues of pale pink. Costume Designer Louise provided sophisticated costumes, applying white, silver, cream and beige colours for an elegant wedding party look. Individually, these elements were beautiful, but in combination they yearned for bolder complimentary colours, as the pale pink background paired with the beige, white and cream tones dulled the lager theatrical portrait.
Director and Choreographer Jim White, charmed with some of his ensemble choreography. Areas of particular delight were Albert's Turn, lead by Marc-Andre Poulin as the Wedding Planner and That's Family presented by Joanne Cutler, Karen Karpman, Sam Stein and Merv Middling. Unfortunately, these moments were nearly overshadowed by some of the less developed staging throughout the play.
The cast performed some standout numbers including Jenny's Blues (A Bisl Mer) sung by Rosie Callaghan and Where did I Go Wrong performed by Joanne Cutler. In her duet Love You Till The Day, Cheryl-Ann Lilieth's lower vocal register was impressive and left audience members craving more. Mikey Samra infused the show with much needed energy through his portrayal of Marty Kaufman. Overall, despite some awkward line deliveries and missed comedic timing, this ensemble conveyed warmth and charisma.
Finally, it is important to respectfully address the figurative "pink elephant" in the room. Jenny Steinberg played by the lovely Rosie Callaghan, is scripted to be a woman of a larger build in her 30s. Despite Rosie's convincing rendition of Jenny's Blues and her thorough understanding of vocal dynamics, it cannot be ignored that this character is meant to be played by someone older. Additionally, lines like "I'll never be thin" or "So what I'm friggin' fat" now insight discomfort and change the intended message, as with the actress's thin frame there appears to be no corresponding evidence to support these statements. This casting choice modifies the meaning of the dialogue behind this character's journey. Lines meant to inspire empowerment, now invoke concern as the character consistently communicates a false perception of her own body.
Despite some of these shortcomings, the show addresses relevant and important issues in a light-hearted manner. It offers a wonderful opportunity for dialogue and is strongly recommended. Bravo to the Segal Centre for Performing Arts and DWYT for continuing to present compelling stories, characters and topics that support meaningful and relevant discussion in our community.
It Shoulda Been You will be playing at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts from June 4th - June 25th. Tickets can be purchased at (514) 739-7944 or www.segalcentre.org.