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Honeymoon in Vegas: Theater review by David Cote
How to answer snobs who denounce Broadway as a cultural wasteland of gaudy lights, musical cheese and tacky titillation, a place where suckers from around the world flock to get fleeced? You could say at least it’s not…Las Vegas? Well, the Great White Way has now become Sodom of the Southwest, and whatever happens there is definitely not staying there: Honeymoon in Vegas is too damn fun to keep secret.
Jason Robert Brown’s big and brassy score borrows gleefully from the obvious sources—Sinatra, Mancini and Liberace—and splices that swingin’ lounge vibe with his own bouncy, wryly neurotic voice. For those who loved and mourned The Bridges of Madison County last season, they know Brown as a serious composer-lyricist who writes keenly about passion and loneliness. So it’s a thrill to see his musical craft and depth in the service of so much splendid silliness.
Because let’s face it: Andrew Bergman’s book, which hews closely to the bones of his 1992 screenplay, is goofy stuff. Dead-mother–haunted Jack (Rob McClure) tries to end his fear of commitment by running off with patience-tested fiancée Betsy (adorable Brynn O’Malley) for a quickie marriage in Vegas. Cardsharp Tommy Korman (Tony Danza) is struck by Betsy’s resemblance to his dead wife and schemes to steal her away from Jack via a high-stakes poker game. Most of the laughs turn on deceased monster moms and fatally suntanning wives, with the female lead treated as an IOU. Feminist this ain’t.
But it’s very funny, with a detour to Hawaii and those iconic skydiving Elvis impersonators. The cast is superb, and what Danza lacks in strong vocal chops he makes up for in charm and characterful crooning. Gary Griffin’s frisky staging abounds in sight gags and gorgeous chorus girls. In terms of sheer bubbly fun, Honeymoon ranks up there with some of my favorite new musical comedies on the job—The Full Monty, Hairspray or In the Heights—and recent ones—The Book of Mormon and A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. Broadway may be a crapshoot, but Honeymoon hits the jackpot.
Honeymoon in Vegas.Nederlander Theatre (see Broadway). Book by Andrew Bergman. Music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown. Directed by Gary Griffin. With Rob McClure, Brynn O’Malley, Tony Danza. Running time: 2hrs 30mins. One intermission.
Follow David Cote on Twitter: @davidcote