Who knew that Jason Robert Brown, king of the introspective power ballad, had such a splashy, dishy, old-fashioned musical comedy like Honeymoon in Vegas in him?
Everyguy Jack Singer faces dual, equally funny obstacles in wedding his shiksa goddess Betsy. On her deathbed, his determinedly possessive mother Bea cursed him of ever tying the knot. Summoning the courage to elope to Vegas, Jack falls victim to slick shark Tommy Korman, and is forced to negotiate a weekend for Tommy with Betsy to cover insurmountable poker losses.
The daffy pleasure of the show comes from the way it both takes itself seriously, in terms of the future happiness at stake, and also approaches the music theatre format with reckless abandon, knowingly breaking all sorts of conventions to delicious effect.
Based on his 1992 film, Andrew Bergman has written what is essentially a regular book musical that is grounded in reality, but then Bergman, Brown and director Gary Griffin have cut free and loose with the format, merging the lead characters with ghosts, showgirls, lounge singers, hotel guests and flying Elvises.
Already flying high, the night gets an extra burst of energy when the location shifts from Vegas to Hawaii in act two. The band, seen often on stage, change to Hawaiian shirts, and Brown demonstrates that he can a pen a traditional-sounding Hawaiian song of welcome as readily as he can write a traditional-sounding Las Vegas lounge song.
While the happy ending seems fairly well assured, the twists and turns along the way provide plenty of enjoyment. Best of all the cast all seem to be having as much performing the show as the audience is having watching it. Every member of the hard-working ensemble has their moment to shine in a featured role of some sort.
Rob McClure generates megawatts of nervous energy as Jack. Brynn O’Malley is lovable, and quite gorgeous, as Betsy. Tony Danza sneakily counts on his pre-established gregarious charm to twist the knife as Tommy’s nefarious side plays out. Plus he plays the ukelele and tap dances! In Streisand wig and thick horn-rimmed glasses, Nancy Opel is a hoot as Bea.
The Broadway run of Honeymoon in Vegas has come to an end far too soon. Hopefully it will have a future life on other stages. Meanwhile, the terrific cast recording will keep the memories alive.
Honeymoon in Vegas was reviewed at Nederlander Theatre, New York, where it plays its final performance Sunday 5 April 2015.
Photos: Joan Marcus