Creaky sitcom wedding comedy, performed by pros.
Is it possible anymore to wring a droplet of juice out of a musical comedy about a wedding?
What are the chances of finding humor in the pushy Jewish mother-of-the-bride who nags her overweight single daughter to "skip a few meals"? Or the gentile groom who speaks Yiddish "like he learned it from a nun"? Or his alcoholic WASP mother who slurs, "Family! What doesn't kill ya makes you drink!"? Or the prissily efficient wedding planner, the heartsick wedding crasher or the Jewish father who boasts, "I got a good deal on the hall"?
If we really must go down that aisle again -- and the people behind "It Shoulda Been You" clearly felt they must -- it helps a lot to have the comic ace David Hyde Pierce behind the scenes in his Broadway directing debut. Equally essential is a cast of real pros -- including Tyne Daly and Harriet Harris as the mothers-in-law -- to sell the ancient sitcom angst as if nobody had ever dreamed up such alleged hilarity before.
Improbably, if the audience at a recent preview is an indication, this conscientiously good-humored 100-minute show may well be a demographic crowd-pleaser. The overqualified cast convinces us that everyone onstage is having a terrific time, which goes a long way toward muffling the incredulity that such a throwback has found its way back to Broadway.
The main character is Jenny, older sister of the thin and seemingly perfect bride (Sierra Boggess). Lisa Howard plays Jenny with a plucky sense of herself. She withstands the insults that Daly shoots at her with expert comic timing and has a saintly lack of bitterness as she tells her sister "You're everything mom wanted me to be" before belting out the "my turn" fat-girl blues.
There is a not-entirely-expected twist to the story, and Brian Hargrove, who wrote the book and the lyrics (and, incidentally, is the real-life husband of the director), plots it all out without palpable strain. Also, David Burtka (incidentally, the real-life husband of Neil Patrick Harris) has a light comedy touch as the groom, while Josh Grisetti almost steals the evening as the guy trying to stop the wedding.
Barbara Anselmi's music is simple, even when sounding way too much like Sondheim. In fact, Sondheim summed up most of this show better in a single song, "I'm Not Getting Married Today." Right now, lyrics that say we've "seen it all before" are the truest words in the show.
WHERE Atkinson Theatre, 256 W. 47th St.
INFO $59-$142; 877-250-2929; itshouldabeenyou.com