Encore Michigan

‘Shoulda Been You’ is a big day indeed at Farmers Alley

Review June 17, 2017 David Kiley

KALAMAZOO, Mich.–Weddings can be joyous and they can be the source of pain, anguish, great debt, huge laughs, the whole gamut of emotions and outcomes. Seldom, though, have there been as many turns of the screw as there are in It Shoulda Been You, the modern musical that got a run on Broadway and is now being produced at Farmers Alley here.

Featuring a book and lyrics by Brian Hargrove, with music by Barbara Anselmi, the story centers on the bride (Missy Karle) who’s Jewish, and the groom (Michael Perlongo) the gentile. We will come to find out, though, that this is the least of what separates the two who are about to walk the last mile in the hotel where the pre-nupt action takes place.

During the hours of walk-up to the ceremony, which are compressed in this 1:45 hour (no intermission) production, we get plenty of inter-denominational kvetching, cavorting, boozy passes, soul searching and libidinous innuendo.

For all the focus on bride and groom, the center of the story is actually the bride’s older sister, Jenny, (Whitney Weiner) an earnest, bruised but strong and pretty plus-sized put-upon character who the audience can’t help rooting for, especially as her Mother (Zoe Vonder Hair) reminds her every five minutes that it’s not her wedding day and that she could stand to lose some weight. Somehow the script and Ms. Vonder Haar manage to pull off this relationship without us coming to hate this mama. Indeed, Ms. Vonder Haar provides the strongest performance of the evening.

A plot-line running through the story is the love of an old boyfriend (DJ Bucharelli) for the bride. He shows up after an errant text from Jenny about the wedding day, and we find out that even the brides’ parents had long hoped to have him for a son-in-law instead of the gentile they are getting.

There is plenty of plot in this story despite the feeling sometimes you are getting a sampler script that is an amalgamation of bits of the movies “BridesMaids” and “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and “Father of the Bride”, mixed in with a dash of “The Bachelor” and the old TV series “Love American Style.” The tunes work quite well for the most part and this cast does a swell job of delivering them even though there isn’t one that stays with you the next day, or finds itself in your head as an ear-worm. Lyrics range from poignant, as in Jenny’s Blues, to the truly silly, such as this lyric: 

I don’t have a thing against gentiles.

I respect their heathen ways.

But everyone knows you never marry

When you’re in your goyim phase.

Laurie Carter Rose and Hal Hobson-Morese are delightful as the groom’s randy and somewhat shallow parents. Ben Zylman is funny and timely in his delivery as the fey wedding planner. Kendall VanAmburg as best-man Greg and Kianne Truvillion as bride’s maid Annie each have a special secret and show strong chemistry in keeping it.

It Shoulda Been You is not devoid of substance by any means. By the time the curtain falls, several modern themes have been covered and explored, laughed at, poked at and sung about. But none of that substance falls on you like an anvil. Indeed, some may bristle over the breeziness. All in all, though, it’s a funny, sweet and ultimately happy tale that should put a smile on your face, even if the story also leaves a few audience members with their face in their hands as the surprises unfold.

Week of 12/11/2017

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