Saturday, March 17, 2012

ISBY Review

It Shoulda Been You is a well-executed musical delight. Now playing at the Village Theater, ISBY is a modern musical that lives up to the theater’s reputation for producing new quality work.

ISBY is a comedy about a large young woman named Jenny and her trials as she tries to coordinate her sister’s wedding. Jenny has to deal with the usual motley crew of crazies that make a musical fun. Her co-bridesmaid and best man are vacuous and unhelpful. Her Jewish mother is overbearing and mean. The bride keeps getting sick every time a detail is off. The gentile groom won’t stop trying to speak yiddish. The mother of the groom is a mean alcoholic. The relatives are nut-jobs. And the appearance of an ex dives the show into full-blown chaos. Only the omniscient wedding planner seems to be able to help, and that’s limited to a panini machine.

Like any decent musical, Jenny struggles with her personal problems while wrangling with a cast that seems determined to driver her to insanity. And the audience gets to laugh along. Of course, there are some great twists to the play and it’s hard not to write without giving them away.

The set has been well put together and pieces fly in and out seamlessly giving the audience a visual treat nearly throughout. The only lacking set is the second to last scene where the audience is forced to look at a couch and a lime green scrim for nearly twenty minutes. But that was that scene keeps the drama firmly on the characters who are in the midst of the climax. Can they be faulted for going with the minimalist design? No, but the audience is left to wonder why the climax has to happen in the ugliest room in this supposed hotel.

The music is the standard musical fare, catchy and tight. That is not to say that is bad by any means, and on my second viewing I was much happier with their composition. The lyrics are funny and actually help the audience with the plot. They are even a bit edgy. But not too edgy, and never over wrought. They fit well into ISBY’s universe and shine a light on each character.

And that may be the best part of the musical. Almost all the characters are so well fleshed out and human. Even the fathers who have relatively few lines are easily relatable and the audience can build a perfect history of them without extra prompting. The only character that seems incomplete is the groom’s mother. For a character referred so glowingly to by those around her, the audience can’t help but adopt the initial view of her by Jenny’s mom. She’s a mean lady.

Despite her own song and substantial time in the piece, the audience is left wondering where all of the human qualities in her have gone. And that’s no fault of the actress. This is a new musical after all and it feels like those types of lines were removed during the process. She was a human, but after many rewrites has been blown into an Oedipal satire of lust and backhanded compliments.

ISBY is well-executed and was a delight to see--twice. There is no reason to not see this unless you are averse to the use of the s word. It is possible that the Village Theater’s older audience may find some content objectionable but it is handled gently and avoids many of the pitfalls that lesser productions would--and have--succumbed to.