Monday, April 27, 2015

Airline Highway

Airline Highway
Manhattan Theatre Club
The Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
April 25, 2015

Photo courtesy of Airline Highway
& Manhattan Theatre Club
Airline Highway is a remarkable piece of theatre.  Originally produced at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago this past winter, it is now presented on Broadway by the Manhattan Theatre Club.  The production is superbly directed by Joe Mantello, and you MUST experience it.  Each actor in this powerful ensemble serves up a skillfully flawless performance.  The play is impactful.  It pulls you into relationships with a bazaar array of characters that are linked to one another through hardship and bad luck.  The stage overflows with enticing moments, enthralling stories, and engaging conflicts.

Photo courtesy of Airline Highway
& Manhattan Theatre Club
Tanya (Julie White) is throwing a “living funeral” for Miss Ruby (Judith Roberts), and all of her extended family members living at the Hummingbird Motel on Airline Highway in New Orleans will be in attendance.  The Hummingbird is a derelict motel, and its residents are prostitutes, strippers, drug addicts, ex-cons, drunks, and other assorted vagabonds.  The conflict begins when Bait Boy (Joe Tippett), who escaped the dead end life of his once companions, returns for a last visit with Miss Ruby.  He has started a new life in Atlanta with his “sugar momma” and has returned in the company of his teen age “step daughter” Zoe (Carolyn Braver).  The intertwining of relationships and hard-edge conflict runs deep and dirty.  The New Orleans style celebration of life builds to a drunken row in Act II where everything gets ugly, raw, and real.

The script, by Lisa D’Amour, is phenomenal.  She creates an ensemble piece that truly amazes the senses and engulfs the imagination.  D’Amour provides a personal view into the background of each character through Zoe and her ongoing research for a high school sociology report.  She has been assigned to research and observe subcultures.  Throughout the play she interviews each character on how they came to live at the Hummingbird.  Her character becomes an ingenious devise through which the audience is able to begin processing the experience of the play and take in the deeper subjects and stronger moments.  By the time the report is presented at the end of the play, it has become a stunning documentation of an outsider’s insight into this subculture. 

Photo courtesy of Airline Highway & Manhattan Theatre Club
So much comes at the audience so fast, and still amazingly naturalistic, that I want to see it again, or read it, so I can analyze the themes and the messages in more detail.  The essence and value of life.  The economic divide.  The significance of subcultures in a society.  The non-stop and exhausting running when we cannot face the truth about ourselves.  These are all themes that this play explores.  They explode on the stage as the celebration escalates.  It is too much to take in at once, but let the journey begin by experiencing the perspective of this playwright and the insight of this tremendous production. 

Domenick Danza

On a personal note:  It was a great night for conversation with fellow audience members. 

Before the show I had a great conversation with the couple next to me.  They were Manhattan Theatre Club subscribers and had seen a good amount of theatre from this and last season to talk about.  He was a Pediatrician and his wife was a Consumer Report analyst (or researcher). They were originally from Texas and during intermission we discussed the various “subcultures” the play presented, how far we’ve come as a society, and how far we have yet to progress.  They were a pleasant addition to my night out. 

As I was leaving the theatre, I met another couple.  The wife was very disturbed by one line in the play.  One character talked about being “airlifted out”.  This woman was from New Orleans and took that line as a flippant reference to Hurricane Katrina survivors.  She was extremely upset.  Our conversation was short, but to the point.  I asked her what she was upset about because I felt the play treated all the characters and their lifestyles with tremendous dignity.  She agreed and told me that she felt the details in the script and production were extremely accurate. The Hummingbird Motel was based on a Motel in New Orleans.  Miss Ruby and the stripper act she performed in her hey-day was very true to style.   It was that one line that threw her emotionally.  

This play is a kaleidoscope and clearly needs to be processed and discussed.  Specific moments have different meaning for different people, and it is when you share and discuss your reactions that you will realize the richness and true impact of the text and performances.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Ghosts

Ghosts
Almeida Theatre and Sonia Freidman Productions
BAM Harvey Theatre
April 18, 2015

Photo courtesy of BAM Harvey Theatre,
Almeida Theatre & Sonia Freidman Productions
Ahh… Ibsen’s women.  There is no doubt that we can include Helene Alving from Ghosts in that specific category of female characters, alongside Hedda Gabbler and Nora Helmer (A Doll’s House), who risk their wealth and reputation by defying the strict social norm.  There is, however, a certain plunge that Mrs. Alving takes that seems deeper.  Perhaps it is the years of deceit that she has contributed to that makes her more equal to the men at the start of the play.  Perhaps it is how every choice she has made is purposefully decided so to prevent her husband’s sins from affecting her son.  Any way you look at it, the Almeida Theatre and Sonia Freidman Productions’ Ghosts, adapted and directed by Richard Eyre, makes a resilient statement on the inevitability of the ghosts of our past overwhelming our future.

Charlene McKenna and Lesley Manville in Ghosts
Photo courtesy of BAM Harvey Theatre,
Almeida Theatre & Sonia Freidman Productions
When the orphanage Helen Alving (Lesley Manville) donated in honor of her deceased husband is near completion, she reveals the truth about his drinking and womanizing to Pastor Manders (Will Keen).  The intrigue intensifies as they discuss their suppressed, deeper feelings for one another.  Pastor Manders speaks firmly about how the laws of society and the laws of God need to be more than merely perceived as followed.  This theme is put into conflict when juxtaposed against the kept secrets and reality of the characters’ truths.  Helene’s son, Oswald (Billy Howie), returns from Paris and flirts with their housekeeper Regina (Charlene McKenna).  Helene’s statement about how she is more afraid of the ghosts of her past than the retribution of laws of God is brought into a clear focus when she admits that Regina is the illegitimate daughter of her husband, and therefore Oswald’s half-sister.  The plot thickens in complexity, without being soap opera-ish, as only Ibsen can skillfully pull off (fires, blindness from venereal disease, and of course, what Ibsen play is complete without complications due to insurance matters).  The play left me speechless and in awe of concerted storytelling, an effective adaptation, sharp directing, and amazing acting.

Photo courtesy of BAM Harvey Theatre,
Almeida Theatre & Sonia Freidman Productions
The set, designed by Tim Hatley, is unique and simple.  In the foreground is the sitting room.   Through an opaque backdrop the audience is able to see the dining room.  Through another opaque backdrop more upstage, is the exterior of the house.  The design offered a view of each room simultaneously.  The audience sees what goes on behind closed doors, where secrets are kept, unintended for other characters to see or hear.  It also creates a sense of haunting when lit by lamplight.  Peter Mimford’s amazing lighting design sets a mellow and evocative mood, as well as creates a strong sense of the time period, before electric light.

Will Keen, Billy Howie, & Lesley Manville in Ghosts
Photo courtesy of BAM Harey Theatre, Almeida Theatre & Sonia Freidman Productions
When I took my seat and read in the program that the play was 90 minutes without intermission, I was surprised and did not know what to expect.  The Ibsen play is three acts, still this adaptation remarkably tells the penetrating story shadowed with years of remorse and secrets in a concentrated amount of time with a spectacular cast of five.  Kudos to Richard Eyre.  The production is here from London and runs at BAM Harvey Theatre through May 3.  Don’t miss it!

Domenick Danza

Friday, April 17, 2015

Wolf Hall: From Novel to Stage

Wolf Hall
Winter Garden Theatre


Photo courtesy of Wolf Hall
Similar to the seventies Heinz Ketchup commercial that said "Anticipation is making me wait," the stage adaptation for Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hallfor months was making me wait.  For many months, I had eagerly awaited the stage productions at the Winter Garden Theater of Mantel's novels, Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies, its sequel.  When I visited London a couple of months ago, I wanted to see the Royal Shakespeare Company, but because of travel time to Stratford, I decided to forgo the trip.  I was familiar with their work as a result of seeing them, in collaboration with another theater company, perform Shakespeare's Anthony and Cleopatra last year. When I read about their pending repertory performance on Broadway, I knew that the quality would be extraordinary. I became so excited about the upcoming performance because I love classical historical drama and because all the shows that I have seen in London have been either captivating or riveting. I expected no less from the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Wolf Hall

Last week before seeing the stage adaptation of Wolf Hall, I decided to read the novel's first two parts twice to gain a better understanding of all the characters in the story.  Without having a working knowledge of the history, keeping track of all of the characters was proving to be difficult. Upon reading it the second time, the characters became less obscure and much clearer. After reading parts one and two of the novel, Wolf Hall, I watched the first episode of Wolf Hall on PBS.  As a result, I became even more enamored with the text.  I was so enthralled that I googled many of the major players of this historic drama.  I wanted to ensure that I had an accurate understanding of the major historical people and events discussed.  Mantel, in many respects, keeps well in tune with the actual historical events of the life of Henry VIII; however, she refashions Thomas Cromwell to make him much more palatable than the version depicted in A Man For All Seasons (I read that in high school), allowing us to focus less on his malfeasance and more on his fidelity to the King and to Cardinal Wolsey.

Hillary Mantel's novel in two parts tells the story of how Henry VIII requested annulments from both Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn because they were not able to give him a son as heir to the British throne. To help one understand the historical aspect of the story, Henry VIII married Katherine who was his brother's widow.  He claimed that his brother never consummated his marriage and that his brother never touched Katherine, therefore he was free to marry her.  But after eighteen years of marriage, she failed to give him a son that would be heir to the throne.  As a result, he petitioned the Pope, via Cardinal Wolsey, for an annulment.  The pope refused over the protestations of Henry VIII. He married Anne Boleyn anyway and later had her executed for adultery, incest, and treason (she failed to produce a son).  Thomas Cromwell was his "right hand man" who helped the King accomplish his goals of annulment and subsequent marriages, all the while the King never achieved his primary of goal of having a male heir to the throne!  Little did he know that he was to blame!!

The novel was adapted for the stage by Mike Poulton.  Make no mistake, this play focuses on Thomas Cromwell and his relationship to Henry VIII and to Cardinal Wolsey. The other characters are essential, but the play gives great insight into Cromwell's actions in relation to the Catholic Church and in relation to those around him. The play had its original runs in Stratford preceding its run on the West End in London before coming to Broadway. Ben Miles plays loyal Thomas Cromwell, a lawyer, Nathaniel Parker plays King Henry VIII, and Lydia Leonard plays the fearless and shrewd Anne Boleyn, who is later convicted and subsequently beheaded for treason, incest, and adultery -  charges that are historically thought to be false. I saw each part of the play on separate days. The theater appeared to be sold out for the first part, but was only half full for the second part.  Even though the first part ended superbly with the foreshadowing of Jane Seymour, I surmise that either the length of the play or the subject matter deterred people from watching the second part.  The running time for each part is about two hours and forty-five minutes. 

Ben Miles and Lydia Leonard playing Thomas Cromwell  and Anne Boleyn
Photo courtesy of Wolf Hall

Additionally, if one does not know the story of Henry VIII, he or she might have become confused by the twenty-four major characters and by about another twenty minor characters. As a result of reading the novel and watching the PBS Masterpiece series, I understood the content of the play. My suggestion for those who are seeking to see the play is to research some basic history of Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell, Cardinal Wolsey, Anne Boleyn, Catherine of Aragon, and Jane Seymour. If one knows the key aspects of their lives as they relate to the British monarchy, understanding the play will not be as arduous. If one takes some time to research the history, then disappointment will be unlikely for the acting is superb and the writing keeps one engaged all the while already knowing how the drama is going to unfold and end. Even though I knew the ending, I remained riveted by the story and it maintained my engagement. Lydia Leonard was outstanding in her portrayal of Anne Boleyn. One should see the play for her dramatic portrayal.  Her performance will leave the average theatergoer wanting more from her, yet knowing that the story ends with Jane Seymour, the subsequent wife of the King after Boleyn. Don't be dismayed, rumor has it that part three of this novel is coming! Maybe a drama will follow.

As a result of my prior knowledge of the novel and of British history, I recognized the action and many of the lines of dialogue in the play that were taken directly from the novel. For example, Cromwell discusses that in the Bible there is no mention of purgatory, no pope, no relics, etc.  He also discusses, William Tyndale, a leader in the Protestant Reformation. These references in the play are used as a basis for King Henry VIII forming the Church of England. Because of the enormity of Wolf Hall- nearly six hundred pages, the stage adaptation has only the most salient points of the novel and of British monarchy history.  Without starting from the beginning of the novel, which details Cromwell's humble beginnings, the play periodically hints at Cromwell's beginnings as the son of a blacksmith. The stage adaptation does detail, as the story progresses, the deaths of Cromwell's wife and daughters from sweating sickness as well as the life of his only son. The sentiments of each of the major characters are accurately portrayed.  One can see that Anne Boleyn's shrewdness is depicted accurately as well as the coy and subtle coquettish behavior of Jane Seymour, Henry VIII's third wife. The great adaptation allows us to follow the trajectory of both Cromwell's life as well as Henry's VIII's life and his wives.

Photo courtesy of Wolf Hall
Creatively this dramatic rendering does much with less. The set design features high cement towers that serves many purposes.  The lighting design and sound designed helps the audience to determine the actual location of each scene.  At times, the play is set on the Thames River. The sound of the water as the characters are on the boat gives a strong sense of location.  Other times, the characters are indoors and there is often a fireplace that gives us understanding of the location. The scenes at the Tower of London where Anne Boleyn and others were beheaded is dark and has a sinister atmosphere. The creative team does a splendid performance in its decisions of costume design. The costumes in the play are reminiscent of both the fifteenth and the sixteenth century. The costumes help one to be able to distinguish the characters from each other. Their power and their wealth were both displayed through their clothing. During sixteenth century England, velvet, wool and silk became sought after fabrics. The play's costume fabrics are elegant and display the opulence of the monarchy. The hats that they wear also depict the era.

Although this play does not have many special effects, its strength lies in the writing and in the acting that are used to maintain your interest. Sometimes, plays use many techniques to either make a production greater or to mask otherwise weak productions; but, this production is great at its core without all the possible technology and elaborate set design. It's set in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, a time when all of the advances were not on the horizon. There are no anachronisms that are out of tune with the setting of this historical drama. Perhaps in the future, we will see more dramas like this.

Please get your tickets to Wolf Hall- both parts!  This is a limited run of fifteen weeks. Even if you believe that the play will be difficult, watching this historical drama will not likely leave you disappointed.  You will be both engrossed and educated at the same time. Why not give it a try! As I finish this post, the PBS drama awaits me! Yes, I still want to watch the drama unfold, even though I know the entire story.  The reviews for that series have been on par with Downton Abbey. What can I say? I love both great writing and great theater.

Starting in July, Lin Manuel Miranda's Hamilton, a historical musical, will be appearing on Broadway after a successful run at the Public Theater in New York City.  I was dilatory in getting a ticket and I have had no success at the Public's ticket lottery.  I hope to get a ticket for this upcoming Broadway production. I'm expecting it to be as great as Wolf Hall. Reputation is everything! Comments welcome.

Deirdre M. DeLoatch
Guest Contributor 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Dr. Zhivago

Dr. Zhivago
The Broadway Theatre
April 10, 2015

Photo courtesy of Dr. Zhivago
Dr. Zhivago is presently in previews and set to open April 21.  The production has a lot going for it.  It is a sweeping, fast-paced show with a strong, bold score, amazing voices, a powerful leading man in the title role, set designs that skillfully utilize technology to create effective atmospheres, and a crisp lighting design.  With all of these effective elements in place, why does the production seem to fall short of the epic greatness it can achieve, and can it be cleaned up before opening?

All the performances are excellent.  Tam Mutu, as Yuri Zhivago, is vibrant and fierce.  He and Lara Lee Gaya, who plays his wife, Tonia Gromeko, create a tender and truthful relationship.  Kelli Barrett, as Lara Guishar, is willful and vocally superb.  Unfortunately, the chemistry between her and Tam Mutu is lacking.  Their visceral attraction needs to juxtapose the decisions they both have made in the past with the restrictions of the future in a crumbling society.  Without this zeal, the plot does not drive forward with the passion and complexity it needs.  In addition, Ms. Barrett’s gestures and facial expression appear relatively contemporary against the stoic fa├žade of the other characters. 

Tam Mutu and Kelli Barrett
Photo courtesy of Dr. Zhivago
Other strong performances that need to be mentioned are Paul Alexander Nolan as Pasha Antipov, Tom Hewitt as Viktor Komarovsky, Jamie Jackson as Alexander Gromeko, and Jacqueline Antaramian as Anna Gromeko.  Most impressive were Jonah Halperin as Young Yuri, Sophia Gennusa as Young Lara, and Ava-Riley Miles as Young Tonia.  These three young actors appear in the opening scene and capture not only the essence of the struggle of their characters, but the full attention and genuine interest of the audience.

The music, by Lucy Simon, and lyrics by Michael Korie and Amy Powers, are sweeping and solid.  The songs transform the action of the scenes and allow the characters to reveal and discover themselves and therefore grow and move the story forward.  All the leads and the ensemble perform this score with amazing skill and clarity.  The song “Somewhere My Love” (Lara’s Theme from the movie) is sung and danced by a group of Nurses, Yuri, and Lara in the first act.  Maybe it was just familiarity, but the song seemed out of place with the boldness and broad strokes of the score. 

Photo courtesy of Dr. Zhivago
The sets, designed by Michael Scott-Mitchell, are epic and classic.  The design expands the limitations of the stage, creating numerous settings ranging from high ceilinged Russian estates to open battlefields.  Tall structures slide in and out and are illuminated and magnified by projections, computer images, smoke, and flame.  Piercing through all of this is a stunning lighting design by Howell Binkley, which focuses your eye on the characters and action, allowing for a more intimate connection within the scale of the production.  Among the lush and realistic setting, were scattered a few questionable images, such as faces of nurses and victims during the war scenes, intoxicating images of the character of Lara, and a portrait (photo) of Lara (the only blonde Russian who only wore blue).  Though effective in making a statement, these images were not consistent with the design of the show.  Another dubious set piece was the wall of chairs at the end of the first act.  Though visually enthralling, its symbolic representation was not palpable.

I have one thing to say to director Des McAnuff: Sightlines, Sightlines Sightlines!  That’s one thing, but said three times for effect.  The opening of the show set the pace for the entire evening.  I have not seen a better opening scene serving this purpose since his production of The Who’s Tommy.  However, since most of the opening was staged for the center section of the orchestra to see, and I was sitting house left (far left), I did not get the full effect.  The first act closing was powerful, but again, the visual effect was missed by anyone sitting orchestra right or left due to the fact that the ensemble was gathered on each side of the stage and the main characters were farther upstage center.  There was a writing table placed down stage right for the entire show.  I liked how this represented in the ever-present poet in the character of Uri Zhivago, yet from where I was sitting, it was constantly blocking anyone standing up stage center, which was the section of the stage where most of the action took place.  I don’t mean to sound like a begrudged TDF ticket holder, but when you cannot see the main action of the play from your eighth row orchestra seat because the ensemble or a prop is in the way, something is wrong with the staging.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Zhviago
The show is a resolute, epic journey that covers the first decades of the twentieth century in Russian history.  The historic events and political conflicts are clearly dramatized.  The first act ran one hour and twenty-five minutes.  The second act ran another hour and twenty minutes.  At no point was the running time an issue.  I definitely got my money’s worth.  I hope they can fix and fine time in the coming week before opening.  Please comment if you see the show after opening night and have a different point of view.


Domenick Danza

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Visit

The Visit
Lyceum Theatre
April 4, 2015

Photo courtesy of The Visit
I am stunned by the power of The Visit.  It is a truly remarkable production, starring the legendary Chita Rivera in a performance that should not be missed.  The show is grim and sad and breathtaking.  It is a journey through the wounds of love, fuelled by vengeance and a yearning for reunification.

When the richest woman in the world, Claire Zachanassian, played by Chita Rivera, returns to her down trodden hometown, everyone looks to her as a savior, a beacon, and more importantly, a possible patron.  What she is looking for is to reunite with her first love, Anton Schell, masterfully played by Roger Rees.  The truth of how the town ostracized her family and forced her into exile is acknowledged when Claire reveals the true purpose of her visit.  The proposition she offers forces everyone in the town to question their humanity.  Strangely enough, the decision is a no-brainer for most of them, making you question your own compassion as you put yourself in their shoes.

Chita Rivera and Roger Rees both deliver riveting performances.  The whole cast is amazing.  They are a tightly woven ensemble strongly directed by John Doyle.  John Kander’s score cannot be compared to any of his other work.  His music creates a mood that envelopes you.  His rhythms and tempos lure you in to a unique setting with mesmerizing characters.  Fred Ebb’s lyrics tell a story that is clear and heart wrenching, driven by vengeance and passion.

Chita Rivera, Tom Nelis, Chris Newcomer, and Matthew Demming
Photo courtesy of The Visit
The entire production is coherently designed.  It envelops your emotions and enthralls your imagination.  The set, designed by Scott Pask, is vast and mysterious.  The yellow shoes worn by Claire’s entourage, along with the other symbols of prosperity and wealth, are garish and striking against the dark and gloomy backdrop created by Mr. Pask.  The lighting, by Japhy Weideman, creates intimate spaces for realistic moments in the extensive setting. 

The ghosts of the younger Claire and Anton are ever present throughout the play.  In the opening scene they gesture and move with efficiency and desire that carries the signature of choreographer Graciela Daniele.  All the characters in the show display her precise and distinct influence.  There is a duet between Claire and her younger self that is beautifully choreographed.  It is danced by Chita Rivera and Michelle Veintimilla with a truthful depth of emotion that propels the journey of the story forward with lucidity and fervor. 
Chita Rivera and Michele Veintimilla
Photo courtesy of The Visit
Originally produced by the Goodman Theatre in 2001, the remounting of this Kander and Ebb gem is remarkable.  In the final scene Chita Rivera and Roger Rees transport a grim and desperate story driven by decades of betrayal and revenge into an incomparable love story smoldering with youthful passion.  The Visit is the highlight of the season!

Before the show started, the man sitting to my left informed me that the show was based on a 1956 play written by Swiss dramatist Friedrich Durrenmatt.  It was originally written in German and titled “Der Besuch der alten Dame“.  It was produced on Broadway in 1958 starring Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, in English of course.  In 1964, it was made into a film with Ingrid Bergman and Anthony Quinn.  He proceeded to tell me the story of the play, which he knew intimately because he taught it numerous times – an intellectual out to impress me, or whoever was lucky enough to sit to his right.  I thought, “Spoiler alert!” and tried to politely tune him out.  I am pleased to say that even a spoiler couldn’t spoil this show.  I was drawn in and willingly went on the deep, dark journey.  (I am willing to admit that I was impressed by the gentleman to my left and had felt relatively uniformed.  Naturally, I proceeded to do my research when I got home.  Not all his facts were accurate.  The above information is what I discovered.  Who’s the intellectual now?)*

By the way, I bought the refrigerator magnet… and was considering the key chain.  Yes, the show was that good!

Domenick Danza


*Additional interested tidbits:  The original 2001 Goodman production was a vehicle for Angela Lansbury.  She pulled out of the production due to her husband’s illness, who later passed away.  Chita Rivera signed on, and played opposite John McMartin.  The production was directed by Frank Gelati and choreographed by Ann Reinking.  It opened on October 1, 2001.  Due to the September 11 attacks, the show did not move to Broadway.

Friday, April 3, 2015

It Shoulda Been You

It Shoulda Been You
Brook Atkinson Theatre
March 28, 2015

Photo courtesy of
It Shoulda Been You
I have to admit that I was a little disappointed with It Shoulda Been You.  I expected fluff and frivolity, but couldn’t that come with characters I care about and a plot that is not predictable?  I figured out the ending about twenty minutes in.  Yes, placing seeds in the earlier part of a script that grow and develop later in the play is excellent writing.  I just wish the journey of the play had been more entangled and caused me to doubt my forecasted ending.

The play centers around a wedding.  The main character, Jenny, boldly played by Lisa Howard, is the sister of the bride.  She is a little overweight, lacks self-confidence, and is a bit resentful that her younger sister, Rebecca, played by Sierra Boggess, is getting married before her.  These two actors have great singing voices and build a relationship that is both endearing and tenderly competitive.  Thank God for Tyne Daly, who plays their mother.  She is the reason to buy a ticket to this show.  Another strong performance is by Harriet Harris who plays a daring and biting mother of the groom.  The plot thickens, but not too much, when Rebecca’s old boyfriend, Marty, cleverly played by Josh Grisetti, enters and starts chasing Rebecca from room to room.  We all think we know what he wants, but the truth comes out in the final scenes.

Sierra Boggers, Tyne Daly, David Burtka, and Harriet Harris
in It Shoulda Been You
Photo courtesy of It Shoulda Been You

The set, beautifully designed by Anna Louizos,  has two levels with numerous doors that continually open and close.  Clearly a set up for a fast paced farce, but the pace never really gets to that level.  The music and lyrics by Barbara Abselmi and Brian Hargrove are catchy and entertaining.  Memorable and hummable tunes included the title song “It Shoulda Been You” (starting as a duet and building to a larger group number), “Where Did I Go Wrong” (keenly performed by Harriet Harris), and “Nice” (a stinging performance by Tyne Daly).  The soft shoe number (“Back in the Day”) is cunningly staged by choreographer Josh Rhodes, but is unfortunately not delivered with the sharpness and style it deserves.  David Hyde Pierce’s direction and vision for the show is clear and precise, yet the idea and book are lacking in the intricacies that can make the show farcical, audacious, and dynamic.

The performances were all strong and the audience seemed to enjoy the show.  I laughed out loud at a number of the bits, characterizations, and one-liners.  The quartet at the end (“That’s Family”) between the parents of the bride and groom brings everything to a decent close, unfortunately there was not much to tie together or wrap up by then.


Domenick Danza