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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.
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.