“It Shoulda Been You” Is Heartwarming, Relevant To Your Interests

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If you’re going to see a show on Broadway this season, go see “Fun Home,” the much talked about, Tony nominated play that Kaitlyn promises will remind you how hard it is to understand who we are. That’s a no-brainer. However, if you’re going to see two shows on Broadway, I strongly recommend “It Shoulda Been You,” the hilarious and heartwarming musical that opened in style on April 14. Because y’all: this show is highly relevant to your interests.

At first glance, “It Shoulda Been You” doesn’t seem like anything special. The first half of the hour-and-forty-minute long musical follows the wacky pre-wedding hijinks and relatively minor obstacles standing in the way of a seemingly picture perfect different-sex couple wanting to get married. The jokes all tread well worn comedic ground. For example, there’s deluge of one-liners from family members who object to the impending Jewish/Christian wedding — a storyline which harkens back to the 1922 hit “Abie’s Irish Rose,” still the third longest running play on Broadway. It’s well done, but simply by nature of the material, it’s nothing to write home about.

Yet a little over halfway through, an unexpected twist sends the expected story careening off the rails. I don’t want to spoil it for you, so I’ll just tell you this: I wish I brought tissues. Much to my surprise, I felt a deep emotional investment by the time they got to what the play is really about. I started crying as I watched the bride — played by Sierra Boggess of Russian Broadway Shut Down and a variety of much beloved Broadway shows — steel herself before sharing some very important personal information with her mother. My cheeks were not dry again until well after curtain call had ended.

Directed by David Hyde Pierce (who you probably know as Dr. Niles Crane on Frasier) with book and lyrics by Brian Hargrove (a television writer and Hyde Pierce’s husband), there’s definitely a sitcom-y influence that shines through. The jokes are more suitably described as “safe” than “clever” or “legitimately hilarious;” at times, you’d almost swear you could hear the echo of a laugh track being piped in. Characters are given all the depth of a sterling silver punch bowl, and in spite of the spectacular twist at the end, we don’t see an awful lot of growth. Although many critics panned the play for these reasons, I really appreciated it. To my mind, the stereotypical setup served as a rather aggressively normalizing backdrop. This play never would have made it in the time of “Abie’s Irish Rose;” to be honest, I’m not even sure it could have been done 10 years ago.

The cast. Via It Shoulda Been You.

Left to Right: Sierra Boggess, Adam Heller, Anne L Nathan, Chip Zien, Lisa Howard, Harriet Harris, Tyne Daly, Edward Hibbert, Michael X Martin, Josh Grisetti, Nick Spangler, Montego Glover, David Burtka. Via It Shoulda Been You.

Regardless of any shortcomings in the script, the production more than makes up for it with its cast. Receiving top billing in this show are Broadway veterans Tyne Daly (of Cagney and Lacey, who publicly campaigned against Prop 8) and Harriet Harris (Desperate Housewives and “Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays“), whose impeccable comedic timing carried the entire first half of the play. “Jenny’s Blues,” sung by powerhouse Lisa Howard as the sister of the bride, was an absolute showstopper. And Montego Glover of Memphis (who performed at the Trevor Project’s TrevorLIVE last year) was hilarious too, even if her character was sadly underused.

Almost all of the action in this play revolves around women and their relationships, but if you care, there were also some men in the play that I didn’t find annoying! Notably: the wonderful Edward Hibbert (an out and proud actor and veteran of 11 seasons of Frasier), David Burtka (aka Neil Patrick Harris’s husband), and Josh Grisetti (Rent).


“It Shoulda Been You” is currently playing at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre.  For tickets and information, visit itshouldabeenyou.com.

Laura Mandanas is a Filipina American living in Boston. By day, she works as an industrial engineer. By night, she is beautiful and terrible as the morn, treacherous as the seas, stronger than the foundations of the Earth. All shall love her and despair. Follow her: @LauraMWrites.

Laura has written 211 articles for us.

20 Comments

  1. I am loving all the theatre coverage that Autostraddle has had lately! I hope this is here to stay (but I understand that theatre is an expensive habit. My oh my, do I ever understand, she says, as her bank account weeps).

    • YESSSSSS. God I’m so glad I’m not the only one who watched Christy as a kid. Tyne Daly was MY LOVE because of that show. And then my mom watched tons of Judging Amy so my love continued…I still contend that Tyne Daly’s character on Christy was gay. You know, in that never-married older woman in a homophobic environment way.

      • Not two weeks ago I posted a status on Facebook noting that when I found a fellow queer who loves Christy as much as I do I would know I found a soulmate. Based on reading other comments from y’all, I’m pretty sure both of you are in relationships but it gives me hope that it’s not too much to ask for a future partner ;)

        • I’m 100% single right now SO LET’S GET GAY MARRIED. And move to Appalachia and find ourselves an Alice Henderson to be effectively our Owl/fairy godmother and one of us can teach the sad little oddly-aged, overall-clad children and rock lots of collared shirt/skirt combos and bangs and one of us can be the rugged doctor with excellent hair. I have something like ten or eleven Appalachian folk medicine books from my great-grandfather that I made my dad give me during the peak of my Christy love, so I’m good to go.

  2. I saw this at a theatre just north of Seattle in 2011 (different cast). While planning a wedding to my now-ex husband. It was amazing, but gave me a whole lot of FEELS. Seriously, if you get the chance, go see it. (Although, if you are planning a wedding to a man and are thinking you maaayybbeee have more feelings for girls than guys, it may cause a LOT of internal struggles. That you will then try to bury. with wine. on your best friend’s kitchen floor at 3 am. what are friends for?)

  3. Well, seems like I’m going to have to make a trip to NYC to see this. This show is personally relevant to my interests because I dated a cast member back in the day. I would’ve classified her as a LUG but we had just graduated. Hmmm… Is it worth the awkwardness of actually talking to (or facebook messaging) her to get some tickets? Also, I might need to be spoiled before I go because if this twist has to do with her character I might not be able to handle it.

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