Lisa Howard and Tyne Daly in “Shoulda Been You.” | JOAN MARCUS
Dear theater snobs, believe it or not, there is an audience for smart and sassy comedy that lets them get home before the first intermission in the first part of “Wolf Hall.” That show right now is “It Shoulda Been You,” a silly confection of a musical with book and lyrics by Brian Hargrove and music by Barbara Anselmi. This light, slight, and thoroughly engaging one-act musical has no ambitions other than to divert, and it demands nothing other than the willingness to go with it and have a good time. It’s hard to imagine not being charmed by what’s on stage at the Brooks Atkinson.
This is a door-slamming farce about a wedding between a nice preppy boy and his Jewish girlfriend. Given the premise, it practically writes itself, but there are a few unpredictable twists that are quite delightful. Replete with stock characters and situations, the show still manages to feel fresh and bouncy as a new puppy.
“It Shoulda Been You” also offers sensational performances by the mothers of the bride and groom, respectively Tyne Daly as the hand-wringing Jewish mother and Harriet Harris as her Locust Valley lock-jawed nemesis. Add a flamboyant wedding planner, a neurotic older sister (the sensational Lisa Howard), an attractive betrothed couple (David Burtka and Sierra Boggess), and their equally attractive best friends (Nick Spangler and Montego Glover), and the guy the girl should have married (the hilarious and versatile Josh Grisetti), and you’ve got a warm and funny evening. Director David Hyde Pierce doesn’t miss a gag, and the whole thing is a perfect marriage of classic comedy and contemporary sensibility.
“It Shoulda Been You,” “Something Rotten” delight; “Gigi” won’t grow up
“Something Rotten!,” the new musical at the St. James, is, in just two words, something wonderful. This adorable, antic show is reminiscent of the type of frolic P.G. Wodehouse and Jerome Kern wrote in the early years of the 20th century, combining ridiculous plots and characters with tuneful songs, obvious jokes, and flat-out entertainment that marries high brow and low brow with spoof and spectacle. The result here is one of the most appealing shows on Broadway right now.
The plot concerns the Bottom brothers, who are Shakespeare’s rivals and, unfortunately, lesser mortals, not gifted with the Bard’s talent or popular success. Trying to create a hit, they come up with the concept of a musical based on the vision of Nostradamus — not that Nostradamus — who can foresee the future of the theater. His sooth is a little off kilter, though, as he foresees “Omelette” rather than “Hamlet.” It all just spins out from there.
The book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farell and lyrics by Kirkpatrick and his brother Wayne are full of puns, double entendres, and a kind of gleeful silliness that recalls Monty Python. And, it takes balls to rhyme “genius” and “penis.” The laughs are non-stop as Nick and Nigel Bottom try to get their show up, only to find their company infiltrated by Shakespeare himself, who may not be as cocky as he pretends.
Christian Borle as Shakespeare, with the cast of “Something Rotten!” | JOAN MARCUS
There are moments of comic genius in “Something Rotten!” —from the opening number, “Welcome to the Renaissance,” to the production number “A Musical,” which makes fun of every classic musical you’ve ever seen, to the big number from “Omelette: The Musical.” Those last two stopped the show cold at the performance I saw.
The stellar cast is led by Brian d’Arcy James as Nick and John Cariani as Nigel. Christian Borle is hilarious as Shakespeare, particularly when he’s seen as a Renaissance rock star. Brooks Ashmanskas is, as always, very funny as a Puritan who would close the theaters, and Brad Oscar is simply amazing as Nostradamus.
The direction and choreography by Casey Nicholaw is dead on, and it’s a very rare moment when the audience isn’t nearly doubled over with laughter. Gregg Barnes has done the fine costumes, and the terrific set is by Scott Pask.
There’s an old theater joke about adding an exclamation point to a title, as if that can make the show seem more exciting. In this case, however, a second one wouldn’t be out of place.
To start out by mentioning what’s right with the new musical “Gigi,” there are Broadway stalwarts Victoria Clark and Dee Hoty, costumes by Catharine Zuber, and scenery by Derek McClane. On the minus side is just about everything else.
Heidi Thomas’ hideous adaptation of the book has turned Colette’s original story of a young courtesan in training who finds love and a legitimate life with a handsome, rich young man into a confusing and nonsensical mess. Thomas reduces the storytelling — and the sex — to the level of young adult fiction. Bad young adult fiction. Things are made even more horrific by Vanessa Hudgens in the title role, playing Gigi as a petulant, self-absorbed brat. Hudgens’ acting lacks any complexity, and her singing is the kind of brazen belt popular on competition shows but completely wrong for a nuanced coming of age story.
Though heavily dependent on the movie version of “Gigi,” this production pretends the story is not about sex, the trading of sex for wealth, and the fact that wealth can prove more durable than love. In a “Real Housewives” world, the coyness is simply disingenuous. When the original story’s central conflict is excised, what’s left is as dull and unappetizing as a fallen soufflé.
Gigi’s ultimate love, Gaston, is presented as plastic and safe as any boy band member, and Corey Cott is perfect for that role. He is Parisian by way of California, and his acting is stilted and obvious. As his uncle Honoré, Howard McGillin plays the former roué with the same kind of stilted veneer. The character’s signature song, “Thank Heaven for Little Girls,” has been taken from him, as has any of his worldliness. Given this, McGillin musters on gamely, but he provides no foil for the romantic Gaston.
Fortunately, we can always listen to Clark, who just sounds better and better here as Gigi’s grandmother Mamita, and Dee Hoty, who as Aunt Alicia is the only character that hasn’t been eviscerated in the rewrite. Hoty has a delightful acerbity as well as a knack for the ironically comical.
Still, after nearly three hours, the only thing I was thanking heaven for was that I could just go home.
IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU | Brooks Atkinson Theatre, 256 W. 47th St. | Tue., Thu. at 7 p.m.; Wed., Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m.;Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m.; Sun. at 3 p.m. | $90-$139 at ticketmaster.com or 800-653-8000 | One hr., 35 mins., no intermission
SOMETHING ROTTEN! | St. James Theatre, 246 W. 44th St. | Tue., Thu. at 7 p.m.; Wed., Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m.; Wed.-Sat. at 2 p.m.; Sun. at 3 p.m. | $15.95-$142 at telecharge.com or 212-239-6280 | Two hrs., 30 mins., with intermission
GIGI | Neil Simon Theatre, 250 W. 52nd St. | Tues, Thu. at 7 p.m.; Wed., Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m.; Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m.; Sun. at 3 p.m. | $75.75-$156.75; ticketmaster.com or 800-653-8000 | Two hrs., 45 mins., with intermission