Stages’ 30th Season Opens With Contemporary Comedy, “It Shoulda Been You”

itshouldA big anniversary season for Stages-St. Louis and they open it with a light, contemporary musical that closed on Broadway last season- “It Shoulda Been You.” The terrific cast breezes through this unusual offering and makes it perhaps better than it really is. Veterans and newcomers alike punch the laugh lines and make the unimpressive score soar. What really works is the unexpected twists throughout the play that make this wedding day something you’re not likely to experience yourself and certainly not anything like the romantic movie musicals of old. But it all works.

itshould-toastWith a book and lyrics by Brian Hargrove and music by Barbara Anselmi, “It Should Been You” throws the audience for a loop with some mature themes and then the bombshell happenings that change the whole feel of the typical happy wedding day. It’s surprising but certainly refreshing and works well when you go with the flow and embrace the concept. The dueling mothers of the bride and groom are intense and Stages’ veterans Zoe Vonder Haar and Kari Ely practically steal the show with their pointed barbs and steely eyed looks. These two ladies have been entertaining audiences for years- especially at Stages- and they don’t disappoint with these two brilliant performances.

itshould-hairClaire Manship as Jenny takes the major spotlight, however, as the second fiddle to younger sister Rebecca who is getting married. Deemed to overweight by her mother and believing the years of emotional abuse that makes her feel inferior to Rebecca in every way, she breaks out of her shell as the evening goes on and really drives it home with the show-stopping number, “Jenny’s Blues.”

Stacie Bono and Jeff Sears make a lovely bride and groom and carry through with their “little secret” while entertaining with strong singing voices and superb stage presence. David Schmittou is excellent as the father of the groom who tries to break out of his stoic attitude with his son and it turns into an entertaining, if awkward, song and dance number. Michael Marotta is equally adept at carrying off the father of the bride duties with humor. And Zal Owen is a charmer as Marty- the fly in the ointment and Rebecca’s ex boyfriend while Jessie Hooker is a delight as the bride’s best friend, Annie. And Erik Keiser also shines as the groom’s best man.

itshould-twodanceAlbert, the wedding planner, is a model of efficiency as portrayed by Edward Juvier with his uncanny psychic abilities and easily adapting to every emergency that inevitably pops up on every wedding day. Morgan Amiel Faulkner does a brilliant turn as horny Aunt Sheila and John Flack makes a few brief but memorable appearances as hard of hearing Uncle Morty. More excellent work by veteran Stages perfumers Steve Isom and Michele Burdette Elmore as the over zealous catering staff.

Rounding out the cast are Brad Frenette and Missy Karle. Director and choreographer, Stephen Bourneuf gives the light touch with great results. Great pacing makes the show bounce along and, without an intermission and just at two hours long, it doesn’t seem overly long. Lisa Campbell Albert provides musical direction, Garth Dunbar’s costumes are beautiful and the Sean M. Savoie lighting strikes just the right chord. The complex and constantly changing set design of James Wolk is nothing short of marvelous. Being a new play to me, I thought we might be treated to French farce seeing six doors on stage, but they get a surprising number of uses as they transform throughout the evening.

itshould-weddingparty“It Shoulda Been You” is an unusual choice for Stages who normally go for established musical fare. But this contemporary comedy is an excellent choice to open this significant anniversary season. It doesn’t blow you away like some of their productions but offers a delightful take on an age-old tradition that’s anything but predictable. Enjoy “It Shoulda Been You” through July 3rd at Stages-St. Louis. Contact them at 314-821-2407 for tickets or more information.

 

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