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Arts

It Shoulda Been You

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Fresh from a David Hyde Pierce directed Broadway hit run last year, the Henegar Center It Shoulda Been You serves up a far from traditional wedding comedy. Proving that when it comes to that madcap wedding day, this twistedly twisting plot just might take the (wedding) cake.

Is it a revival of some long-lost screwball classic? No, it's a snappy musical comedy with a strong cast under the sprightly and masterful direction of Hank Rion based on the book and lyrics by Brian Hargrove and music and concept by Barbara Anselmi. The production runs through January 29.

The groom is Catholic. The bride is Jewish. Her mother is a force of nature. His mother is forever polishing off gin on the rocks.  A know- it-all, the wedding planner is  dressed in a pink suit and is flamboyantly gay. A plus-size older sister deals with fat jokes and quietly despairs in search of her own happy ending. Did I mention the rogue ex-boyfriend who pops up on the day of the wedding looking to cause even more mayhem?

Oh happy days. Two strung out and dysfunctional families battling a mixed marriage where neither side is on board. A non-stop, 90-minute laugh-riot, it's a true ensemble show featuring  15 characters in well conceived roles from old to young. It Shoulda Been You is a wonderful choice by Rion to show off his first-rate cast. And in what has become a familiar pattern, the Artistic Director smartly obtained the rights to the play from Music Theatre International, making The Henegar Florida's first venue to debut the show.

"This is the third show with them, so they trust me and The Henegar to care of their properties," Rion said. "They thought that it might play better in a local community without all the stars in the New York performance. They know I'm not going with a totally traditional approach, that I like to take risks. We look forward to working with them in the coming years."

Here's the premise: A 30-ish couple, the lovely Rebecca Steinberg (Beth McKenzie) and handsome Brian Howard (Joe Horton) are getting married at a swank destination hotel. Calling the shots is the Jewish mother Judy Steinberg, played brilliantly by  Shane Frampton. The Vero Beach resident is starring in her 11th production at the Melbourne theater.

Both Judy and the father, Murray (Benjamin Benya) more than live up to their stereotypical reputations, and are hardly thrilled with the prospects of a “goy” son-in-law. Brian is from a well-heeled family and his parents, the gin-swilling Georgette (Joan Taddle) and George (Terrence Girard) aren’t exactly doing cartwheels either. There is a lot of grin and bear it to get through the big day.

It Shoulda Been You moves at a lively pace and comes with some pleasant surprises. There is a superb performance by older sister Jenny (Kaimi Lucker) who has always been in the shadow of  the pretty, but not-so-perfect bride. Horton's “song and dance” with Girard over a pre-nuptial agreement is a quick-witted and fancy footwork routine given to us by choreographer Amanda Cheyenne Manis.

"The show moves so fast, it's a challenge is getting the timing right," Rion observed. "Another is taking one set and making it 18 different locations, a table, a rolling rack of clothes and the different lighting. My set designer shares my brain, he knows exactly how I'm thinking. Without a bunch of sets it's all about the storytelling, coming up with creative ideas to make it work. I've got a great team of people that trust my imagination to make it work."

The music under the direction of Staci Cleveland is charming, catchy and often very beautiful with quite a few knockout solos by Lucker and duets in varying styles. The set is the design of David Robertson. The well-coordinated costumes are by Vanessa Glenn, and lighting designer Joshua Huss' work really shines.

Note: no spoiler alert here. With a pair of plot developments firmly in your mind, odds are you will be knocked for a loop when the real twist arrives in the final quarter hour. It turns everything on its head. Here's a fair bet: you will leave The Henegar smiling broadly.

Show runs through January 29. Tickets are $16 to $26. Call 321-723-8698

or visit  http://www.henegar.org

http://www.terryconway.net