Marriage is a funny thing. Some last. Many don’t. And others aren’t ever meant to be. It Shoulda Been You, the new Broadway musical with book and lyrics by Brian Hargrove and music and concept by Barbara Anselmi, takes a lighthearted look at the evolving institution of marriage from just about every angle. But like most wedding gowns, some perspectives are more becoming than others.
Anchored by protagonist Jenny Steinberg (Lisa Howard), It Shoulda Been You follows the day’s proceedings as Jenny’s younger sister Rebecca (Sierra Boggess) prepares for her wedding to handsome fiancée Brian (David Burtka). Jenny’s parents, Judy (Tyne Daly) and Murray (Chip Zien), are none to thrilled with the prospects of a “goy” son-in-law. But Brian’s parents Georgette (Harriet Harris) and George (Michael X. Martin) aren’t exactly jumping for joy either.
Little do any of the parents realize that secret loves lie lurking around every corner, including the timely arrival of Jenny’s ex-boyfriend Marty (Josh Grisetti). By the end of Act I, an unexpected plot bomb drops that would have members of the Supreme Court in a tizzy, and the unlikely reduces to inane as the antics continue.
The production benefits by some of Broadway’s best, including a humorously deadpan performance by Tyne Daly, who spins gold from hay with her Long Island accent and cliché-but-true Jewish mother tendencies. (Trust me, I know from experience.) Equally as droll as the groom’s mother, Harris swigs gin and relishes in her Oedipal relationship with her son. Unfortunately, Burtka is like a dish of melted vanilla ice cream—there’s something sweet there, but no substance. Montego Glover and Nick Spangler are saddled with cardboard cut out characterizations of the maid of honor and best man, respectively.
As the two unconventional ingénues, Howard and Boggess must drive the implausible story forward and make a valiant effort. Howard’s voice soars and it’s refreshing to see a full-figured woman take center stage in a role that addresses society’s obsession with weight and body image. Boggess has to play straight (pun intended) to most of the comedic action, and her 11 o’clock number, “What They Never Tell You,” feels like it belongs in another show.
It Shoulda Been You has the good fortune of direction by funny man David Hyde Pierce, who pulls out all of his sitcom expertise to make the most of the thin material. Unfortunately, at its core It Shoulda Been You is ridiculously unbelievable, and the major shift in action sets the show on a course from which it can never recover. Just like in a real marriage, one commits for better and for worse. Be prepared for both and you might get a good chuckle, but I’m not sure these wedding bells will ring for long.
It Shoulda Been You
Brooks Atkinson Theatre
256 West 47th Street