Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Honeymoon Is Not Over

Here is your intrepid Broadway reviewer catching up on a show I saw during my NY holiday trip.  Luckily, this show was still in previews and doesn't open officially until tonight, I believe.  So, I am still ahead of the curve with this critique.

So, there are probably two dozen reasons why I would hate the new Broadway musical "Honeymoon in Vegas."  Okay, it's based on a movie from the early 90s that I think I saw but I barely remember.  It's set in Las Vegas, a city I have little use for.  Well, frankly, I might if I ever chose to go there.  But, I have not.  It sports a TV star, Tony Danza, as one of its leads and this move clearly smacks of what Broadway has become---a diversion for couch potatoes/tourists from Nebraska who are looking to kill time at a matinee before their dinner at the Olive Garden overlooking Times Square.

Yep, I could give you all those reasons why I would hate this show.

But, you're not going to get them.  Because, shut my mouth, I loved "Honeymoon In Vegas."  I think it will be a hit when it opens and run for a few years and then go on a national tour and perhaps earn Tony Danza a Tony nomination.

So, there!

I was literally jaw-to-the-floor astonished how clever and funny this show was.  Admittedly, it's total musical comedy comfort food---meat loaf served with a Vegas-like orchestra.  As you watch the story unfold and the songs play out, "Honeymoon In Vegas" actually comes off like a Broadway production that might have been produced in 1963 with Dick Van Dyke in the lead role.  But, for me, there is nothing wrong with a basic, good old Broadway musical.  No rock music.  No super hero flying.  No lion heads on long poles.  Nope, this is as basic as it gets.  

And bless God for that simplicity.

The plot seemed all too new to me, despite the fact that I think I saw the original movie twenty years ago.   Andrew Bergman, who wrote and directed the film, is responsible for the musical's book and clearly he has taken a fresh look at his own work.  The dialogue is hilarious and, more importantly, the songs feature an off-the-wall humor that would make Mel Brooks blush.

If you don't know the tale or, like me, barely remember it, Jack Singer is a New Yorker who has been reluctant to marry his patient and long-suffering girlfriend because of a curse his mother bestowed upon him on her death bed.   By the way, Mom, despite being dead, pops up frequently and hilariously throughout the evening.  Well, anyway, Jack decides to tempt fate and marry his Betsy on a quick weekend in Vegas.

We get Las Vegas with all the chintzy trappings of a sleazy nightclub singer, White trash tourists, and the resident card shark/gambler/millionaire played by Danza.  He is immediately taken by Betsy who is the spitting image of his dead wife who died from skin cancer from too much sun at the pool.  That whole back story is recounted in a comical song and I've never thought I'd laugh so hard at lyrics about melanoma.

Before you know, there is a romantic triangle and we are winging off to Hawaii for even more fun and frivolity.  There's a lusty Hawaiian tour guide, the famed Garden of Disappointed Moms, and finally a plane of parachuting Elvis Presley impersonators.  

Sounds goofy?   It wonderfully is.  There is not a missed beat or an opportunity for a joke that goes wasted.  You leave the theater smiling and it's been an awfully long time since I could say that.

Tony Danza is marvelous.  He can sing and tap dance, for Pete's sake.  Ironically, while all his "Taxi" and "Who's The Boss" co-stars have faded into oblivion or network radio or Lifetime movies, he is powering on and performing away.  Good for him.  As good as he is, Rob McClure as Jack is even better with a performance that just might have him battling Danza for a Tony Award.  From the Playbill, I see that McClure has worked steadily in the theater.   But now, he just might be a star.  The same can be said for Brynn O'Malley as Betsy, who does yeomen work here as well.

If there was one downside to the whole evening, it's the seating at the Nederlander Theater.   It's just one more ancient Broadway house built for people under 5 foot 2.  The only person that possibly will be comfortable there is Danny DeVito, when he comes to check out his "Taxi" buddy in this show.  

Even worse was the seat I had in the front row of the mezzanine.  It's perfect only for dwarfs.  And certainly not for anybody who's had meniscus surgery within the last decade.  I actually moved for the second act into an unoccupied box at the side, where my only discomfort was worrying whether or not I would be shot in the head like Abe Lincoln.

But, "Honeymoon In Vegas" is so good that you will like it from any seat in the house.  

Dinner last night:  Leftover sausage and vegetables.

No comments: