It Shoulda Been You
Typically, the Great White Way offers a wide variety of plays and musicals encompassing several genres, including tragedy comedy, satire, etc. Today, Broadway marquees are filled with adaptations of television shows and movies that have been put on stage to entice a more widespread audience. In response to this, the off-Broadway circuit has also become more commercial, leaving no home for original plays and musicals in Manhattan. This is good news for the regional theatres of New Jersey, who are getting the spotlight for producing original works.
One premiere that is especially important here in New Brunswick is being performed right now at the George Street Playhouse. On Oct. 4 George Street Playhouse opened its 2011-2012 season with It Shoulda Been You, written by Brian Hargrove and directed by David Hyde Peirce.
For this performance, George Street Playhouse is magically transformed into a beautiful wedding reception hall and hotel as the audience gathers to celebrate the unlikely union of Rebecca Steinberg (Jessica Hershberg) and Brian Howard (Matthew Hydzik). Though the pair could not seem more thrilled about their union, their families have some other ideas about who each of them should marry. Take the mother (Tyne Daly) and father (Richard Kline) of the bride for example: They would much rather their daughter marry a nice Jewish boy, like her ex-boyfriend, Marty (David Josefsberg). Brian's parents (Harriet Harris and Howard McGillin) also find themselves less-than-thrilled with the union. The two families create a lot of drama as the wedding approaches. Handling the drama while keeping a (mostly) level head is Jenny (Lisa Howard), Rebecca's sister and co-maid of honor.
With one twist after another, It Shoulda Been You leaves audience members on the edge of their seats during the whole show. Brian Hargrove takes a seemingly familiar plot and creates a relatable story that is contemporary and yet suited for both older and younger generations. Barbara Anselmi's music leaves several great melodies in your head as you leave a theatre, all of which are sure to get their own followings.
The star-studded cast exceeds expectations with captivating performances that really connect you to the characters and leave you laughing with them - and crying with them too. Tyne Daly's interpretation of Judy is outstanding. She pairs the excellent, signature Tyne Daly voice with the hysterical portrayal of a stereotypical Jewish mother. Additionally, the chemistry that she has with the other actors is impeccable. Daly's interactions with Harriet Harris, for example, are exceptionally brilliant. This is highlighted in the comedic musical number "Nice."
Another character that will keep you laughing is the wedding planner, Albert (Edward Hibbert). Hibbert's performance is absolutely hilarious and will have you begging for more each time he leaves the stage.
Despite the show's comedic nature, it is also extremely powerful and presents the audience with many different messages and perspectives on the world. One exquisite and memorable moment is Lisa Howard's performance of the song "Beautiful." This song speaks to the insecurities of many people, women and men alike, about their appearance and image ... something that is all too relatable. The most moving song in the show is definitely Jessica Hershberg's performance of "A Little Bit Less Than." Hershberg's raw emotion and passion during this number are exceptionally moving and unparalleled.
A great deal of credit must go to the artistic vision and tactics of first-time director, David Hyde Pierce (Frasier). Though Pierce is no stranger to the stage or screen, he has never worked as a director before. When the opportunity arose for him to direct a play that his husband had written, he did not pass it up. Because of this, Pierce's work with Hargrove shows amazing cohesion and energy. This show is not dull for a single moment - even the set design is ingenious. There are almost as many surprises in the set as there are in the musical itself and each one of them more exciting than the next. You will be absolutely blown away by what this set can do, and by the ways Pierce has the actors interact with it.
Overall, this show is captivating and a must-see for theatre fans everywhere. The show runs through Nov. 6. Due to the high demand for this show, tickets are limited in availability. The star-studded cast had the show selling well even before any reviews had been published, which once again shows how great a big world-premiere like this is for regional theatre.
Regional and college theater companies are often doing more experimental things with their shows, taking risks that theatergoers cannot see on Broadway and they're a lot cheaper for the college student's budget. Rush tickets are also often available for students.