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A CurtainUp New Jersey Review
Honeymoon in Vegas

I like taxis, I like trains
I Like Brooklyn when it rains. But I love Betsy.
I like walking after dark. I like jogs in Prospect Park,
But I love Betsy.
I like Shake Shack, I like MoMa
And New Jersey's ripe Aroma.

— Jack
Honeymoon in Vegas
Rob McClure surrounded by Elvises
(Photo: Jerry Dalia)
The new musical Honeymoon in Vegas, now in its world premiere at the Paper Mill Playhouse, could be heading for a divorce in Millburn unless some serious tinkering is done. What was an improbable, inane but also modestly successful 1992 romantic film comedy (with Nicolas Cage, Sarah Jessica Parker and James Caan) is still all that and more, except that it has landed on the stage.

Whether it is salvageable in its current state will depend upon the resourcefulness of its collaborators. Of course, there is no reason in the world why it shouldn't remain true to itself in this incarnation, if that's what is intended. It does have a fine cast that can sing and dance and create an experience with the potential to entertain.

Following in the now tired-old tradition of adding a score and choreography to a screenplay, in this case one by Andrew Bergman, who also wrote the book, this production gives the appearance of being exhausted from trying too hard. However, Tony Danza and Rob McClure and their A-list co-stars —David Josefsberg, Brynn O'Malley, Nancy Opel and Matthew Saldivar— show what pros can do with pap.

A good many eye-catching production values include a super big on-stage band, a couple of gorgeous leggy show girls (where sixteen would be better), plenty of cleverly mobile New York to Las Vegas to Hawaii scenery designed by Anna Louizos and flashy lighting designed by Paul Miller. All serving as back up for a lame story that doesn't have a sufficiently ample leg to stand on.

The score by Jason Robert Brown is modestly appealing but has little in it that is memorable. However, it can boast of meritorious lyrics (also by Brown) that actually rhyme and make you chuckle. Not enough of what happens on the stage, even under the exhaustingly spirited direction of Gary Griffin can't overcome a rather pedestrian musical theater experience.

The plot centers on Jack Singer (McClure) a young man unable to pop the big question to Betsy (a pretty and spunky O'Malley) whom he's been dating seriously for the past five years. He believes that he is the victim of a death bed request exhorted by his possessive mother-from-Hell Bea (a wonderful Opel) that he should never marry because no girl is good enough or would love him as much as she did.

That preposterous request or curse, if you will, seems to have seriously affected Jack, who, as played by the terrific, multi-talented McClure. But Betsy won't give up on this seriously neurotic procrastinator even though you may wonder what it is about him that's worth her bother. Jack and Betsy's planned marriage in Vegas is upset by Tommy Korman (Danza), a ruthless gambler who believes Betsy looks, not just a little, but exactly like his late wife. From afar, he is instantly smitten. Add another nut case.

Tommy decides to stop the wedding, which he does by luring Jack into a fixed game of poker. Are we surprised? Jack is such a complete jerk that he begs Betsy on the night before the wedding to let him play cards with Tommy. Are you kidding? Left alone, Betsy goes off on a shopping expedition to find a wedding dress. Is she for real?

As structured, Honeymoon in Vegas is essentially a fine showcase for Danza, who croons and moves amiably through the action like a re-enfranchised member of the Rat Pack. Though Danza's familiarity comes through such TV shows as Taxi and Who's the Boss, he is an assured stage performer. The audience loves him and it appears reciprocal.

Choreographer Denis Jones gives the ultra smooth Danza some nice moves, but an energetic number performed by Jack and a troupe of skydiving Elvis impersonators goes on too long.

The plot unfolds with Jack predictably losing big time to Tommy, and what ensues includes getting waylaid by Mahi (Catherine Ricafort) a seductress on Tommy's payroll. But enough of this nonsense as we say, as we are gratefully pummeled with tacky digressions and diversions by a second rate Las Vegas hotel lounge singer (Josefsberg) accompanied by a pair of leggy chorines — and on one unforgettable occasion by a buxom beauty who plays the harp with her. . . guess.

The show's funniest scene finds Jack in the "Garden of Disappointed Mothers," a kind of mythical graveyard for yentas where Jack's obligation to his dead mother curse is tested. What is ultimately tested is our tolerance for musical makeovers. In the case of Honeymoon in Vegas it may take a mother's blessing to keep this marriage together.

Honeymoon in Vegas
Book by Andrew Bergman
Music and Lyrics by Jason Robert Brown
Directed by Gary Griffin

Cast: Rob Mcclure (Jack Singer), Brynn O'Malley (Betsy Nolan), Nancy Opel (Bea Singer), Tracee Beazer (Bonnie), Stanley Bahorek (Dave, Alex ), David Josefsberg (Tony Rocky, Roy Bacon), Tony Danza (Tommy Korman), Matthew Saldivar (Johnny Sandwich), Matt Allen (Hotel Manager), Katie Webber (Cranberry Waitress), George Merrick (Dougie Cataracts), Gaelen Gilliland (Joanne Klein), Raymond J. Lee (Chan Elvis Park), George Merrick (Teihutu), Catherine Ricafort (Mahi), Flying Elvises (Matt Allen, Grady McLeod Bowman, Max Kumangai, Raymond J. Lee) Scenic Design: Anna Louizos
Costume Design: Brian Hemesath
Lighting Design: Paul Miller
Sound Design: Randy Hansen
Orchestrations: Don Sebesky
Vocal & Dance Arrangements: Jason Robert Brown
Music Director: Tom Murray
Choreographer: Denis Jones
Running Time: 2 hours 15 minutes including intermission
Paper Mill Playhouse, 22 Brookside Drive, Millburn, NJ
(973) 376 - 4343
Tickets: $27.00 - $98.00
Performances: Wednesdays at 1:30 and 7:30 pm; Thursdays at 8pm; Fridays at 1:30 and 8 pm; Saturdays and Sundays at 1:30 and 8 pm.
From 09/26/13 Opened 10/06/13 Ends 10/27/13
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 10/06/13 >
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