Dallas — Spring weddings are everywhere you look. Smiling brides appear on Facebook, at the Arboretum and in your neighborhood park.
Now It Shoulda Been You, a bubbly wedding-themed musical with an upbeat score, makes its regional premiere at Uptown Players in the midst of a bright Dallas spring. Get on your spats and smiles, and enjoy this marriage of prickly old traditions and the daring surprises of young lovers. The band is solid and the terrific cast is hot and committed, even if their characters get cold feet.
With a book and lyrics by Brian Hargrove and music by Barbara Anselmi, the show plops us smack in the middle of the familiar wedding comedy, complete with the familial culture clash that erupts when romance brings an unlikely couple to the alter. Here, the bride is Jewish. Svelte, pretty Rebecca Steinberg (petite, dewy-eyed Katie Moyes Williams) is the family beauty and first to marry. The groom, Brian Howard (lanky, boyish Matthew Clark), is a preppy gentile, his mommy’s pet and the handsome Ivy League heir to the family trust. The comedy package is beautifully wrapped in this production, with flattering outfits for all designed by Uptown’s resourceful Suzi Cranford.
Directed and choreographed by Ann Nieman with deft comic pacing, we’re served up plenty of Neil Simon-style farce with the tiered cake. Bridesmaids and wedding planners run up and down Claire Floyd Devries’ stylish two-level set design in a swank hotel. Doors open and close to reveal new twists and bizarre plots turns, as the in-laws natter away and the bride has the requisite last-minute dithers. Is it the rumor of a sudden pre-nuptial agreement? Or is it the sudden appearance of Rebecca’s former longtime boyfriend, Marty (a disarming Jacob Grant), an otherwise nice Jewish fella bent on stopping the wedding? Who knows? Certainly, the bride’s parents prefer Marty, as they declare in their chutzpah rendition of the title song.
Much of the fun falls to the warring mothers-in-law, played by Tyne Daly and Harriet Harris in the Broadway production in 2015. Here, two of Uptown’s favorite stars throw verbal daggers at close range. Linda Leonard is the busy, buzzing, in-your-face Judy Steinberg, bossing the caterers around and dishing out advice to everyone in hearing distance. Wendy Welch is the waspish, hard-drinking Georgette Howard, mother of the groom and a woman who summons her inner bitch at the drop of an ice cube.
Leonard and Welch are hilarious foils in the beauty parlor scene where all the gals convene for hair and nails, and the moms-in-law mix it up musically in “Nice.” When it looks like the wasps are ahead, Judy delivers a literally cutting remark in her sweetest voice: “You look great,” she tells Georgette, “It’s like your whole face has been lifted.” Nice, indeed.
Even before the bride starts wringing her hands, her older sister Jenny (versatile soprano Jodi Wright) delivers the opening number bemoaning her doormat status as she dutifully organizes the event. Jenny wryly accepts her role in “I Never Wanted This.” Holding up her sister’s size-four gown, Jenny croons about being “bluish, when you’re Jewish and thirty-two-ish.” She hangs the dress back on the rack and wryly admits, “I wouldn’t fit into this if I was cremated.” Later in the show, Wright’s fed-up Jenny takes her stand against big girl prejudice in “Jenny’s Blues,” belting out the funny, suggestive lyrics. “I’m gonna live for myself,” and “get a little on the side,” she sings, defiantly rolling her ample hips to audience applause.
Most of the songs are forgettable, but the rhymes are often clever and they move the plot forward and reveal character. Okay, they may be stereotypes, but they’re sturdy, familiar ones and the actors give them all a surge of life and easy appeal. Bob Hess is as sexy as a Brooks Brothers jacket allows as Bryan’s dapper father singing and dancing a smooth soft-shoe turn with his graceful and surprised son in “Back in the Day.”
Mikey Abrams lands all his “been-there-done-that” lines as a fey wedding planner who’s seen so many wedding calamities that he’s virtually unshockable. Or maybe not. This gang is pretty charged. What’s with Jenny’s glamorous bridesmaid (a stylish Kimberly M. Oliver) and Bryan’s hunky best man (an eager, high-energy Chris Ramirez). Both are regularly seen lurking in hallways and exiting doors together. Hmmm.
Music director and keyboardist Adam C. Wright conducts a strong six-piece orchestra that dances everybody through the show. Musicians include Katrina Kratzer on violin, Jordon Cleaver on cello, Ellen Kaner and Clayton Williams on reeds, Eric Andress on trombone and Jamie Zolfaghari on percussion.
Can this crew craft a happy ending? Hey, it’s complicated, but it is a comedy. You can take your champagne into the theater, so grab a chilled glass and toast the charming ensemble in this ultra Uptown wedding.