Story: Brian Howard and Rebecca Steinberg are about to celebrate their wedding at a tony New York City hotel. It appears, though, that they have little to say about it, because Rebecca’s abrasive mother Judy is running roughshod over everyone to make sure the ceremony is to her liking.
One bit of resistance Judy encounters occasionally is Rebecca’s older sister Jenny, who chafes at her mother’s incessant carping about her weight, her lack of a boyfriend and anything else that pops into Judy’s vapid head. Jenny is dreading being involved in the wedding, but generally she capitulates to Judy’s wishes.
While fastidious wedding planner Albert oversees even the tiniest and unlikeliest of details, Brian gets an awkward lesson in ‘bonding’ from his stiff father, George as his mother Georgette keeps herself lubricated with whatever alcohol is available. Georgette likes sex, George likes money and dutiful son Brian just wants to please them both.
Best man Greg tries to do too much and has a penchant for putting his foot in his mouth, while co-maid of honor Annie seems a little too obtrusive. Judy’s husband Murray appears more relaxed than anyone, shrugging his shoulders at Judy’s antics. Everyone is startled when Rebecca’s former boyfriend Marty turns up invited, desperate to talk with the bride-to-be. That’s far from the biggest surprise, however, on this wacky wedding day.
Highlights: STAGES St. Louis has begun its 30th anniversary season with a spirited rendition of this madcap musical which is making its first post-Broadway appearance in the country on the stage at the Robert Reim Theatre. Director Stephen Bourneuf keeps the comedy and enchanting choreography moving along at a pleasing pace that gets STAGES’ 30th season off to a buoyant start.
Other Info: It Shoulda Been You played on Broadway from March 2015 to last August, running a total of 135 performances, following earlier tryouts in 2011 and 2012. It’s not a ‘big’ show by modern standards, which may account for its truncated time on the Great White Way, but it has its share of laughs when performed as smartly as by the STAGES cast.
Written by Brian Hargrove from a concept by Barbara Anselmi, It Shoulda Been You features a number of charming if not especially memorable numbers with lyrics by Hargrove to the music composed by Anselmi. Doug Besterman provided the orchestration.
James Wolk’s two-tiered scenic design is set up for a traditional farce, with half a dozen doors providing quick entrances and exits for frantic characters. Ultimately, though, It Shoulda Been You isn’t a farce but rather a straightforward comedy that relies on plot twists rather than pratfalls for its humor.
Veteran STAGES performers Zoe Vonder Haar and Kari Ely anchor the presentation with a pair of delicious portrayals of the battling mothers-in-law. Vonder Haar takes command of Judy’s bullish personality, delivering her abundant comic lines with verve and vigor seasoned with a liberal dose of spit and vinegar.
Ely has a great deal of fun as the perpetually intoxicated Georgette, fantasizing about the kind of man she might have preferred her son to be in her own disturbing Freudian manner. She’s able to carry that difficult assignment off successfully for the most part, primarily because Georgette appears to suffer from a shortage of gray matter.
David Schmittou plays a bit out of character from the roles he normally assumes in STAGES productions, and he rewards the audience with a sharp, insightful portrayal of money-oriented George. His duo with Jeff Sears as Brian, Back in the Day, is an easy-going patter and dance song that is one of the show's highlight, as is George's awkward attempt at hugging his son.
Michael Marotta shines in his consistently amusing portrayal of Murray, Judy’s long-suffering but loving husband. He has a number of funny lines in his dialogue and he delivers all of them in carefully modulated tones for maximum comic effect.
Claire Manship is the focus of the production with a winning interpretation of older sister Jenny, who knows she’s overweight and is keenly aware of her shortcomings thanks to her mother’s reminders. Manship gets the show off to a spirited start with the opening number, I Never Wanted This, that demonstrates the script’s impish heart and hints at what’s to follow.
There’s good work also by Stacie Bono as Rebecca, Jeff Sears as Brian, Jessie Hooker as Annie and Erik Keiser as the slow-witted Greg. Zal Owen keeps limber as frantic ex-boyfriend Marty, while Edward Juvier is ever amusing as the unflappable and debonair wedding manager Albert.
Also entertaining are Steve Isom as Albert’s sad-sack pal Walt, John Flack as addled Uncle Morty, Morgan Amiel Faulkner as Murray’s lascivious sister Aunt Sheila, Michelle Burdette Elmore as Albert’s wise-cracking employee Mimsy and Brad Frenette and Missy Karle as hotel employees.
Sean Savoie’s lighting embellishes Wolk’s scenic design and Garth Dunbar adds the precise costume design. Bourneuf’s choreography lacks the sprawling, big numbers of other STAGES shows but focuses smartly on smaller pieces that allow his players to shine. Musical direction is provided by Lisa Campbell Albert and orchestral design by Stuart Elmore.
It Shoulda Been You is predictable in spots, surprising in others but mostly just an evening of pleasing entertainment. If asked later whether you enjoy the production, you’re likely to say, “I do.”
Musical: It Shoulda Been You
Company: STAGES St. Louis
Venue: Reim Theatre, Kirkwood Civic Center, 111 South Geyer Road
Dates: Through July 3
Tickets: $20-$59; contact 821-2407 or STAGESstlouis.org
Rating: A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.
Photos courtesy of Peter Wochniak