BWW Review: mad Theatre of Tampa's FUN MUSICAL IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU COMES TO SHIMBERG at Straz Center For The Performing Arts
When you talk about a musical and its ensemble on the 35-minute drive home, it's one of two things - good or bad. In the case of mad Theatre of Tampa's It Shoulda Been You, expertly directed by Tony P. Gilkinson, good doesn't do justice to the talent that graced the stage and in the audience on Wednesday night. If final dress rehearsal is any indication of how fun a performance you'll see, complimented by a live band under the musical direction of Tim Flores, I guarantee that you are in for a treat.
Everyone loves a wedding... except the bride's sister Jenny, ex-boyfriend Marty, parents Judy and Murray, future in laws Georgette and Brian Howard, and best man Greg and maid of honor Annie. Oh yes, and we can't forget the bride Rebecca and groom Brian. It's a special life-changing event that plays out to a completely unexpected, albeit, happy conclusion.
We can't discuss the musical without talking about Albert, our wonderfully pompous wedding planner, a self-proclaimed "nuptial Houdini." Without Albert sashaying in and out, solving problems before they happen, it would be like oreo cookies without the creamy filling. It just wouldn't be as good. Justin Batten, in a dazzling silver-striped suit with droll commentary on the wedding - "I live to serve," really shines (literally and figuratively) in the song Albert's Turn. My favorite line of Albert's (and there are many) is when everything in the storyline comes to a head and Albert quips, looking heavenward, "Thank you for not letting me call in sick today."
And then there's the effervescent Jenny, the older sister to the bride who doesn't realize her own beauty and self-worth. She has the confidence of a young woman who's been a dutiful doormat daughter, raised by a Jewish mother who's well, a mother who wants her to lose weight, marry a nice Jewish boy, and so on. She feels invisible, living in the shadow of her little sister's successes. When Heather Lynn Mendoza sings Beautiful, it is a completely captivating moment. On the opposite side, when she belts out the final notes of the torch song Jenny's Blues, it only makes sense that the audience reacts in thunderous applause. Heather has a voice you'd expect to see in a Broadway production.
Anna Morris and Michael Bonassar as the bride and groom, Rebecca and Brian, have long-held secrets surprising revealed after intermission. When Brian's father awkwardly attempts to be friends after years of a strained relationship, the resulting song Back in the Day is brilliant. "Who is this person and what has he done with my father?" Brian asks.
When Anna sings A Little Bit Less Than, you felt her pain and the pain of everyone who has ever been in her situation. It makes you want to comfort her and tell her it will be okay. Later, she finds her strength and the bride, resplendent in a white wedding gown, and the groom, in a tux, announce bombshell after bombshell that shocks the family and delights the audience.
Jenny and Rebecca's mom Judy is exceptionally cast. From the New York accent punctuating the pointed barbs to her gentile future in-laws, the Howards, the constant interference in her daughter Rebecca's wedding to the belittling of her doting husband and eldest daughter, Francesca Guanciale Jay commands that role. When she has to play Nice with her future in-law Georgette, it is a moment that any daughter with a mother and mother-in-law best separated than together will relate to.
Kate Holmes as Georgette is incredible. Her nose is so far up in the air, you wonder how she walks without tripping. With drink in hand to start the day, she is the personification of everything you expect of upper crust WAS
PC (Catholic). When she laments about her son marrying in Where Did I Go Wrong - "how can he take on a wife, I'm the only girl in his life" and looks up sheepishly, the audience bursts into laughter.
Let's talk about the dads. Donald B. Holt, Jr. as Murray Steinberg and Michael C. Silvestri as George Howard are the dads you want as your own. Murray's love for his two daughters and ill-tempered wife doesn't feel like it is a role. The loving but dysfunctional family dynamic feels completely authentic. I love the men singing in That's Family. To backtrack a minute, you do not want to miss Michael attempting to bond with his son. The perfectly executed soft shoe dance you'll see is worth the price of admission. Hats off to Tony and Jarret W. Koski for beautiful choreography.
The returning ex-boyfriend Jarret as Marty is the icing on the wedding cake. When he professes his love, you can't help rooting for him to get a fairytale happy ending. Whatever is the song every girl wants to hear. Marty simply makes you smile.
Now the relations (doubling as wedding assistants), best man and maid of honor. Lee Holmes as cigar-smoking forgetful hard-of-hearing Uncle Morty and Jen Martin as the frisky cougar Aunt Sheila rubbing up against Marty are the comic relief of the night. Though the singing is great, every time they enter the stage and in Jen's case, va-va-vooms off, laughter is absolutely guaranteed.
Best man Greg and maid of honor Annie, Jeff Watson and NaTasha McKeller supporting their loves ones in the wedding are made for these roles. Their production of Love You 'Til the Day has the audience cracking up. A patron exclaimed, "I didn't know that note even existed until he hit it."
Produced by Melissa Doell and stage managed by Adriane Falcon, from the cast, music, costumes by Debbi Lastinger, lighting by Anthony Vito, black and white set by Dwayne A. Cline, props by David Fraga to the cast and crew's seamless set changes, this is a fun production reminiscent of the 40s silver screen movies with 2018 twist. You will definitely leave It Shoulda Been You feeling happier having seen it.