Yet this new musical, this Broadway season's freshest and funniest to date, defies skepticism, both in its wacky humor and its big, buoyant heart. Book writer and lyricist Brian Hargrove and composer Barbara Anselmi have taken a familiar premise -- that of lovers from different backgrounds uniting -- and crafted something that is both endearingly old-fashioned in spirit and decidedly contemporary in execution. Under the whip-smart direction of David Hyde Piece (Hargrove's husband), the 100-minute Shoulda Been can feel like a revival of some lost screwball classic. But Hargrove's hilarious lines, in song and dialogue, take liberties that wouldn't have flown back in the day...The message underlying this madness has to do with the importance of viewing others -- as individuals, in families and relationships -- with eyes wide open. And Pierce and his superb cast serve it with a delicacy befitting a fine soufflé.
IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU Broadway Reviews
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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...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...The show has a brash, non-stop pace...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.
Brian Hargrove's witty, twist-filled book about a mixed-up wedding party serves as the playground for a superb ensemble that knows precisely what to do with every zinger they're given. And whenever the jokes are in short supply -- which isn't often -- director David Hyde Pierce makes sure there's a visual gag to fill the space...Hargrove's lyrics also manage to entertain...which is quite a feat since to get at those spirited rhymes you have to listen to Barbara Anselmi's chipper soft-shoe tunes...Hargrove's best material is reserved for the two mothers, Tyne Daly and Harriet Harris, who know just what to do with a pointed barb, and they never miss their target.
It Shoulda Been You is sometimes about as fresh as a week-old danish and the score (by Barbara Anselmi and Brian Hargrove) is largely uninspired. ("Truish" rhymed with "Jewish" is the norm here-Mr. Sondheim, consider your back unwatched.) And for some odd reason, each character seems have at least two songs apiece, certain overkill for a show that's only 100 minutes. On the flip side, however, you also get to see a bevy of marvelous cut-ups and singers vibrantly giving their all.
A Jewish bride marries a Christian groom, overbearing mothers go to war, the older sister feels left out and there are countless hitches on the way to getting hitched. If you think you've heard this one, you're only partly right. The new musical "It Shoulda Been You" takes the wedding day setup that fuels so many romantic comedies, but offers a twist that livens up the proceedings...David Hyde Pierce directs with a sure hand for comedy, and Brian Hargrove contributes book and lyrics full of clever banter. Yet the score by Barbara Anselmi is thoroughly conventional, and, before and after the musical's surprising mid-show revelation, the characters are often overly familiar and the sentiment sticky. The interval of surprise is undeniable, and Anselmi's music is soundly constructed - but one wishes the musical felt more consistently original.
...there are times when "It Shoulda Been You," replete with its snarky mothers-in-law...perfidious groom, lusty servers, neurotic bride (played, mostly straight, by Sierra Boggess) and various hangers-on with agendas, feels as if it belongs to a previous generation of shows with similarly chirpy scores that you thought had choked long ago on the prime rib once served for dinner. Then again, the reason for the resilience of the comedy about the wedding...is that most of us have either had one, are relishing one or are worrying that there never will be one for us. That ease of identification, coupled with strikingly lively direction from David Hyde Pierce and a veritable plethora of superb farcical performances from the likes of Tyne Daly and Harriet Harris, explains why a great deal of the content in this show -- which actually is much better than the above description implies -- lands with its audience.
Broadway's so-far stuffy spring season needed to loosen up, and relief arrives with the campy ensemble comedy "It Shoulda Been You"...Jenny is the emotional heart of the comedy, a hodgepodge of capers and confessions that would probably fall flat in the hands of less experienced performers. As it is, this cast is probably as close to a dream team for a wedding comedy as you can get...A big twist at roughly the halfway point sends "Shoulda" off in a more serious direction. It feels dated, and it certainly caught me by surprise. "Shoulda" has a book and lyrics by Brian Hargrove (he's Pierce's husband), and pleasant, if run-of-the-mill, music by Barbara Anselmi. Overall, this is fair-to-middling material that's elevated by a superior cast. It's a good show, but you can't help thinking it shoulda been better.
Is it possible for anymore to wring a droplet of juice out of a musical comedy about a wedding?...If we really must go down that aisle again -- and the people behind "It Shoulda Been You" clearly felt they must -- it helps a lot to have the comic ace David Hyde Pierce behind the scenes in his Broadway directing debut. Equally essential is a cast of real pros -- including Tyne Daly and Harriet Harris as the mothers-in-law -- to sell the ancient sitcom angst as if nobody had ever dreamed up such alleged hilarity before. Improbably, if the audience at a recent preview is an indication, this conscientiously good-humored 100-minute show may well be a demographic crowd-pleaser. The overqualified cast convinces us that everyone onstage is having a terrific time, which goes a long way toward muffling the incredulity that such a throwback has found its way back to Broadway.
"It Shoulda Been You" is awfully funny. That's strange, because there's nothing especially clever about this musical comedy...The characters are broadly caricatured comic types you might find at a sitcom wedding (overbearing Jewish mother, high-strung bride, alcoholic mother of the groom, flamboyantly gay wedding planner, etc.), and instead of saying "Comedy Tonight!" the music says "Take a Nap!" But with impeccable instincts for finding their laughs, Hyde Pierce and his terrific ensemble players make this hokum seem terribly funny.
...It Shoulda Been You, which plays like vintage dinner theater infused with a Borscht Belt sensibility. That it nonetheless manages to be truly amusing is a testament to the talent both on and offstage: such comic pros as Tyne Daly, Harriet Harris and Edward Hibbert manage to make the hoariest of jokes uproarious, while director David Hyde Pierce has staged the proceedings with a brisk expertise that makes the 100 intermissionless minutes fly by. It's the sort of show that practically redefines the term "guilty pleasure"...The score by composer Barbara Anselmi...and book writer-lyricist Brian Hargrove (Hyde Pierce's real-life husband) is utterly negligible, and the show would probably have worked just fine without it...The characters and situations are hopelessly contrived and formulaic...and the plot twist late in the show will only seem shocking to Middle Americans...But for all its obvious deficiencies, It Shoulda Been You...is the sort of shamelessly lowbrow comedy too often missing from Broadway these days, Larry David's Fish in the Dark notwithstanding.
The best way to enjoy the madcap, madly old-hat It Shoulda Been You is to pretend it's a lost TV relic from the 1970s. The shortcomings of Brian Hargrove and Barbara Anselmi's mossy new show, about an interfaith wedding gone awry, are easier to forgive through a lens of affectionate camp: the dated stereotypes of pushy Jews and boozy WASPs, the creaky farcical contrivances, the hokey-schmaltzy jokes...But while the antics are predictable -- aside from one huge, implausible twist -- they're not unenjoyable, thanks to a seasoned and flavorful all-star ensemble...Though the cake is stale, they decorate it well. It shoulda been better but it coulda been worse.
"It Shoulda Been You"...confirms the sad truth that weddings...bring out the worst in some people. That includes cynics, show-offs, heavy drinkers, envious have-nots and, it would seem, the creators of American musicals..."Shoulda"...occupies that treacherous comic ground between smirky and perky. Mining an illusion of charm from such terrain is hard, if not impossible, work for any contemporary performer. Not that the eminently talented ensemble members here don't do their best to fill out the paper-doll stereotypes they have been asked to embody...For the most part, the score sticks so relentlessly to the same up-tempo jauntiness that you expect a bouncing ball to materialize...There's not an element in "It Shoulda Been You" that hasn't been used, and wrung dry, before. Adding latter-day twists to this cocktail of clichés somehow makes it taste all the flatter.
"It Shoulda Been You" is a plastic statuette for the tourist trade, a nice-Jewish-girl-marries-nice-Catholic-boy musical farce that is by turns desperately unfunny and relentlessly preachy. Brian Hargrove's been-there-done-that plot (Tyne Daly's Jewish mom is a monster of tactlessness, Harriet Harris's Catholic mom a boozehound) was already a cliché a half-century ago, and today its whiskery stereotypes are a millimeter away from being actively offensive. As for Barbara Anselmi's music, it sounds like a medley of discarded theme songs from the pilots of failed '70s sitcoms. The cast, fortunately, is excellent...David Hyde Pierce's staging is sufficiently adroit to make you long to see what he'd do with a real musical. This isn't it.
As far as comedy goes, the most rewarding wedding is the one that goes off the rails. And so Broadway's new musical "It Shoulda Been You" piles on the mishaps -- only the show itself ends up quite the blunder. At least it sports a terrific ensemble, led by Tyne Daly and Harriet Harris as warring mothers. These talented, hard-working actors are a joy to watch, and almost make up for the drecky writing...But there's little anyone can do with Barbara Anselmi's disposable melodies, lyrics that rhyme "sarong" and "so wrong," "verklempt" and "dreamt," or a hugely improbable plot twist that makes "Tony n' Tina's Wedding" look like a docu-drama. At that show, at least, the audience gets cake.
A musical in that antique vein would seem to be a nonstarter now...But it's not that bad...It helps that its ambition is modest: It's trying to amuse, not overwhelm. Brian Hargrove's book...is cleverly constructed, laying out its wedding plot according to musical-theater best practices...it's worth pointing out that neither plot twist is very credible, and the big one, however contemporary it may be in fact, already feels stale. Still, it has been set up well enough to produce a roar of laughter, and to carry the story swiftly to its unexpectedly touching conclusion. This is in part the result of David Hyde Pierce's understated direction, with its emphasis on comic timing and full commitment to stock characters...it's a nice surprise to find that the real star of the show is Lisa Howard...Howard...has the unusual ability of making likability and warmth, so often boring onstage, theatrical. She also sings beautifully, and gets most of the evening's best songs, which isn't saying much.
Viewing the 2011 tryout at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick (NJ), I found the humor mirthlessly forced...Thirty months later, I'm here to report that It Shoulda Been You is now considerably better than it was. This, thanks to a general upgrading of the cast (other than four central actors); slicker, fast-farce work from director David Hyde Pierce; and what seem to be many more jokes. Weaknesses still remain, led by the contrived story and a decidedly non-rousing score, but what was well-nigh intolerable in New Jersey is now... well, tolerable...Mr. Hyde Pierce's direction, as it turns out, helps keep the proceedings happily and dizzily airborne.
Something old. Something new. Loved Tyne Daly. Rest is goo. That's all you need to know about "It Shoulda Been You," a slight musical comedy about a wacky wedding that's small in size but big in cliches...Fortunately, David Hyde Pierce, in his Broadway debut as a director, cast the show with a couple of one-of-a-kind stars who help make up for their run-of-the-mill characters...The script by Brian Hargrove, a sitcom writer married to Pierce, serves some tart zingers. But his lyrics, written with no fewer than five others, are ho-hum. Music by Barbara Anselmi, who conceived the show, is pleasant lite pop. Most songs just express passing thoughts and are vaporous...In the end, the show is a harmless diversion. But this is Broadway. "It Shoulda Been You" shoulda been better.
It's frequently said that 90% of a director's job lies in the casting, and David Hyde Pierce indisputably nailed that part of the job as director of the new wedding-themed musical comedy "It Shoulda Been You"...It's just a shame that the show itself is so dated and unfunny. When the material is this disappointing, no one can save it...Under better circumstances, this might have been a fun, feel-good trifle. Unfortunately, the sitcom humor is well-worn and hokey, the music is weak, the characters are one-dimensional stereotypes and the concept is tissue-paper thin. Ironically, having great actors involved doesn't make it any better. Instead, you feel frustrated that they're not in a better show...Pierce, who emphasizes the over-the-top, lighthearted tone in a clean and efficient production, might have a future as a director, but he needs to be more careful when choosing his material.
It's terrible. And it shoulda been left in turnaround after years of kicking around agency offices, instead of being offered up for sacrifice in this $7 million vanity production. Oh, the things we do for love...Perhaps I'm wrong about that. Maybe the exceedingly talented David Hyde Pierce...decided that this cellophane-thin story about the wedding day that would unite a crisply sniping Jewish family (hers) with a boozily bigoted Gentile one (his) was the brilliant choice for his debut as a Broadway director...The lyrics' rhymes are not only inane but you can predict them beats, if not whole measures, before they land, and Barbara Anselmi's melodies made me miss Frank Wildhorn. No, seriously...Nevertheless, Hargrove, Hyde Pierce and Anselmi are blessed with a superior roster of actors...So much talent, so little show.
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