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A CurtainUp Review
Honeymoon in Vegas

Never get married.
Thats all that I ask.
— Bea Singer's deathbed wish that's the jokey premise that keeps her son Jack commitment phobic, and has his school teacher Betsy wistfully sing about her go-nowhere relationship.

Somewhere in New York,
Atoms splitting,
Lovers sitting
On a swing.
Strange though it may seem,
Men committing!
Anywhere but here.
— lyric from the "show's torch-y ballad "Anywhere But Here."
Honeymoon in Vegas
Tony Danza & Rob McClure (Photo: Joan Marcus)
When you compare the cost of a plane ticket to Las Vegas (not to mention possible losses at its gambling palaces), the price of a ticket to Honeymoon in Vegas is a bargain. It's a brassy, jazzy lowbrow musical that will take you from New York to Vegas, with a detour to Hawaii.

Yes, it's another mildly successful movie based musical with hopes of metamorphosing into a Broadway hit. In this case, the producers have invested a ton of money to support that ever-elusive dream: super glitzy production values . . . a Grade A cast headed by Tony Danza, Rob McClure and Brynn O'Malley . . . a book by Andrew Bergman, who both wrote and directed the 1992 movie . . . music and lyrics by the prolific Jason Robert Brown in a suitably lighter than usual mode, splendidly played with an old-fashioned big band flavor by a bakers'dozen of on stage musicians.

Honeymoon in Vegas
David Josephson (center) as chief Elvis impersonator (Photo: Joan Marcus)
So far, so good. To add to the good news, Bergman managed to not just work the movie's fondly remembered Flying Elvis Impersonators into his adaptation. In fact, he ratcheted it up. The troupe's skydiving stint is as much the show's high water mark as it was the movie's — not to mention the perfect way to finally let the commitment-shy but madly in love Jack (McLure) reclaim his girl friend Betsy (O'Malley) from Tommy Korman (Danza),the sentimental but gangsterish entrepreneur who's also smitten with her.

Despite some tinkering with the film's details, Bergman has stuck to its deliberately contrived, jokey premise: The deathbed command of controlling mother Bea Singer (Nancy Opel) that her son Jack prove his love for her by never getting married. His every attempt to free himself from this cursed death wish is blocked by her ghostly appearances every time he comes close to the altar. However, per his opening song, he loves Betsy and Betsy's patience is wearing thin after five years of dating. Jack's plan to escape the curse is to head far from mom's home territory in New York and get married in Las Vegas. This might work if mom's curse weren't replaced by a new threat: It seems Betsy is the dead image of shady entrepreneur Tommy Korman's dead wife. He and his sidekicks inveigle Jack into a fixed poker game resulting in a bizarre arrangement for Betsy to spend a weekend at Tommy's Hawaii estate. Complications follow complications until the inevitable happy ending

I asked my New Jersey colleague, Simon Saltzman who saw Vegas in New Jersey and revisited it on Broadway, if anything had changed (including his less than positive opinion). According to him Tony Danza has definitely warmed up to his part. But Danza's charm didn't alter his lack of enthusiasm for the overall silliness of the plot and characters.

But as Simon stands by his opinion, I stand by my earlier comment that buying a ticket for Honeymoon in Vegas might be a better buy than a plane ticket to the actual Vegas. This glitzy, frenzied marriage interruptus is indeed ultra silly. It's also too loud and some of the sight gags, like the big-breasted harpist, are painfully tasteless.

So, unlike the man in back of me last Saturday who was apparently back for the second time and loved it even more, one viewing of Honeymoon in Vegas is more than enough for me (and probably anyone). However, it is well executed, lively kitsch. The aura of the splashy, light on thought-provoking substance 30s and early 40s shows that it aims to recreate, now as then, provides a welcome brief respite from the tough realities of the world we live in. You're unlikely to see another Broadway show to equal the non-stop parade of eye-popping sliding and pop-up scenery, colorful costumes and a cast so obviously having a great time that it becomes contagious.

Robert Jason Brown's score may not feature any stick-to-the-ear breakout tunes but all smartly evoke the targeted mood and aura. And his lyrics are terrific! They rhyme without being forced and have an often wry, story propelling wit that put him on a par with the musical theater's reigning king of clever lyrics. Denis Jones's choreography is consistently lively if not ground breaking.

Danza, though not without stage credits (He played the bartender in the last Broadway revival of ) The Iceman Cometh is not a trained singer. So his performance is mainly buoyed by easy charm and gameness. That includes strummnig a banjo, an applause getting tap dance sequence and a solo that does full justice to the lyrics that showcase Brown's way with characterizing rhymes, "Come to an Agreement."("we could come to an agreement,/ i'm an easy-going guy/you could have a happy landing/ if we had an understanding.").

While Rob McClure's Jack is a patsy for the slick entrapment of Danza's Tommy, McClure the performer is as winning here as he was in Chaplin . Brynn O'Malley can't make a case for the attractive Betsy's sticking with the schlemielish Jack for five years, but it's easy to understand why he loves her. Her most memorable number is a beautifully delivered a wistful song about her frustration in the show's best ballad, "Anywhere But Here."

Nancy Opel, one of those character actors who aren't box office magnets but who work steadily on and off-Broadway, can add another feather to her cap for her hilarious portrayal of the mother from hell. Another very funny secondary role is delivered by Matthew Saldivar as Tommy's not too swift aide-de-camp who changed his name from Foccaccia to Johnny Sandwich.

David Josefsberg ably does double duty as the Lead singer of the flying Elvises and as Buddy Rocky, the tacky lounge singer who introduces the snappy "When You Say Vegas" number ("When you say 'Vegas/ You're sayin' 'Love/ You're sayin' diamond rings/ And all the things/ That little girls dream of/ You're hearin' bells go ring ding/ Ding for me and you/ In Las Vegas, the land where dreams/ Come true').

In case Honeymoon in Vegas is too gaudy and lightweight for your taste, I suggest that you catch the revival of Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods, currently at the Roundabout's Laura Pels Theater. However, it's a sure bet that Josefsberg and his fellow Elvises will have the real departed Elvis smiling and clapping in the Great Beyond's hall where iconic rock stars reside.

For a video montage of what you'll see click here .
Honeymoon in Vegas
Book by Andrew Bergman, based on 1992 film by same name
Music and Lyrics by Jason Robert Brown
Directed by Gary Griffin
Cast (Featured Cast Members: Tony Danza (Tommy Korman), Rob McClure (Jack Singer), Brynn O'Malley (Betsy Nolan), David Josefsberg (Buddy, Rocky,Roy Bacon), Nancy Opel (Bea Singer), Matthew Saldivar (Johnny Sandwich); other cast members in alphabetical Order: Matt Allen (Hotel Manager, Flying Elvis), Tracee Beazer (Ticket Agent) Grady McLeod Bowman (Flying Elvis), Leslie Donna Flesner (Rose Gaelen Gilliland, (Joanne Klein, Ticket Agent, Voiceover Announcer), Max Kumangai( Flying Elvis), Raymond J. Lee (Chan Elvis Park), George Merrick (Dougie Cataracts, Ticket Agent Teihutu,Voiceover Announce), Zachary Prince (Alex), Catherine Ricafort (Mahi), Katie Webber (Saphire De La Toure,Cranberry Waitress); smaller role players also part of Ensemble
Scenic Design: Anna Louizos
Costume Design: Brian Hemesath
Lighting Design: Howell Binkley
Sound Design: Scott Lehrer & Drew Levy
Wig & Hair Design: Charles G. La Ponte
Props: Kathy Fabian/Propstar
Flight Effects: Flying by Foy
Orchestrationss: Don Sebesky, Larry Blank, Jason Robert Brown, Charlie Rosen
Music Director: Tom Murray
Music Coordinator: Michael Keller Choreographer: Denis Jones
Stage Manager: Matthew DiCarlo
Running Time: 2 hours 15 minutes including intermission
Nederlander Theater 208 West 41st Street
From 11/18/14; opening 1/15/15; closing 4/05/15
Tuesday @7pm, Wednesday - Saturday @8pm, Wednesday and Saturday @2pm, Sunday @3pm
Tickets: Pricing: $77.75 - $161.75
Running Time: Approx 2 hours 15 minutes including intermission
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer at 1/10/15 press matinee
Musical Numbers
Act One
  • Overture /Orchestra
  • I Love Betsy /Jack and Ensemble
  • Never Get Married /Bea and Ensemble
  • Anywhere But Here / Betsy
  • When You Say Vegas / Buddy Rocky, Tommy, Johnny and Ensemble
  • Out of the Sun /Tommy
  • Forever Starts Tonight /Tommy and Jack
  • Betsy's Getting Married / Betsy, Jack, Tommy and Ensemble
  • Come to an Agreement /Tommy
  • Do Something / Buddy Rocky, Jack and Ensemble
Act Two
  • Entr'acte / Orchestra
  • li>Hawaii-Waiting for You / Raymond, Betsyn, Jack and Ensemble
  • Every Day Is Happy in Hawaii /Jack, Teihutu and Mahi
  • Friki-Friki /Mahi and Jack
  • You Made the Wait Worthwhile /Tommy, Betsy and Ensemble
  • A Little Luck /Tommy and Johnny S
  • Isn't That Enough? / Jack
  • Airport Song /Ticket Agents and Ensemble
  • Higher Love /Roy Bacon and Ensemble
  • I've Been Thinking /Betsy
  • Honeymoon in Vegas (Finale) /Jack, Betsyand Ensemble
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