For those who still haven’t quite recovered from the absence of longtime Jewish eatery Cafe Edison on NYC’s 47th Street, there’s lotsa matzoh and ham to be had only a few buildings away at It Shoulda Been You, David Hyde Pierce’s maiden foray into directing on the Great White Way. A musical comedy that leans too impetuously on the former, it nevertheless goes down as easily as Jewish penicillin. (That’s matzoh ball soup to the Gentiles out there.)
A wacky wedding is the setting for this trifle, in which goofy groom Brian (David Burtka) is getting hitched to his lady love Rebecca (Sierra Boggess), while their disparate families shuffle around in the background. Brian comes from money, which his parents (Harriet Harris and Michael X. Martin) wield like a sword, while Rebecca’s parents (Tyne Daly and the always welcome Chip Zien) are old-fashioned, straight-laced folks straight out of a Broadway matinee audience. Rebecca’s put-upon, overweight sister (Lisa Howard) has unfairly bore the brunt of the family shame, mostly from their zinger-laden momma, but acts as a willing liaison for all the wedding shenanigans, which are further complicated when Rebecca’s ex (Josh Grisetti, delightful) turns up, and well…things don’t eventually go to plan.
It Shoulda Been You is sometimes about as fresh as a week-old danish and the score (by Barbara Anselmi and Brian Hargrove) is largely uninspired. (“Truish” rhymed with “Jewish” is the norm here—Mr. Sondheim, consider your back unwatched.) And for some odd reason, each character seems have at least two songs apiece, certain overkill for a show that’s only 100 minutes. On the flip side, however, you also get to see a bevy of marvelous cut-ups and singers vibrantly giving their all.
Director Pierce keeps the show humming along (all those years on Frasier–as well as on stages himself–certainly seems to have rubbed off), but it’s the cast that gives the evening a much-needed lift. Some of them are a bit squandered, especially Boggess and Memphis star Montego Glover, as her maid of honor, and the likable Howard (in the de facto leading role here) unfortunately gets saddled with one of the more blah numbers, but they all remain quite appealing.
This one’s all about the grande dames. Harris—whose low-growl, stentorian delivery has enlivened many a comedy—proves it has yet to ever get old, and Daly, returning to a Broadway tuner for the first time in almost 25 years, is sharp as ever; there’s hardly a production she’s ever participated in that didn’t benefit immeasurably from her shrewd instincts. There’s no bigger cliché in the modern theater than the meddling Jewish mama, yet somehow, you barely even care when Daly gets to hold court. It would be nothing short of mishegas not to give these wonderful women their due. B-