Honeymoon in Vegas
At the Marriott Theatre
By Dan Zeff
Lincolnshire—The appreciation of “Honeymoon in Vegas” at the Marriott Theatre largely will reside on audience tolerance for a wildly unlikely romantic musical comedy. One viewer may applaud the storyline and characters as delightfully wacky. Another may dismiss the show as grievously inane. And then there will be the middle ground of patrons willing to accept the musical as agreeably humorous for all the nonsense on the Marriott stage.
“Honeymoon in Vegas” started out as a movie in 1992 and then had a brief run as a Broadway musical in 2015. It’s that musical, with original New York director Gary Griffin and choreographer Denis Jones, that is currently on display.
The core character in the storyline is a nerdy young Brooklyn man named Jack Singer who has been engaged to Betsy Nolan for five years. But Jack is unable to commit to marriage (to Betsy’s rising impatience), mostly because his domineering mother wants Jack all to herself, even beyond her grave. Jack finally decides to pull the marital trigger by taking Betsy to Las Vegas to be wed.
In Vegas, gambler Tommy Korman spots Betsy at a hotel and is carried away by her resemblance to his wife, who recently died of skin cancer. Korman immediately plans to marry Betsy to soothe his grief over the loss of his wife. That requires much implausible trickery to remove Jack from the romantic scene. The plot is lumbered with all kinds of weird events that rotate Betsey, Tommy, and Jack between Vegas and Hawaii, including Tommy winning the rights to Betsy from Jack in a poker game.
The show’s score was composed by Jason Robert Brown, who created “Parade” and “Bridges of Madison County,” both serious musicals of a high order and available to local theatergoers this summer. Possibly Brown decided to try his hand at a knockabout comedy as a radical change of pace. The lyrics of most of his songs for “Ho0neymoon in Vegas” are stimulating and often funny, but the book by Andrew Bergman, adapted from his 1992 movie, not so much, in spite of a few bright comic lines along the way.
Individually, the stars of the Marriott production do well—Michael Mahler expends vast amounts of energy as Jack. Sean Alan Krill is a calculating smoothie as Tommy Korman, and Samantha Pauly as is suitably perky as Betsy, conflicted with the need to choose between her two pursuing swains. But there isn’t much chemistry among the characters. Pauly’s sharp-edged Betsy seems overqualified for the bumbling Jack. And the character of Tommy is confusingly sympathetic as the grieving widower and nasty as a Vegas sleaze ball. Still, if I were Betsy, I would have snapped Tommy up in a minute, giving up on Jack as a dithering mamma’s boy.
The production’s choreography is OK but not distinctive, especially given the opportunities implicit in the extravagant Las Vegas setting. The opening dance number seems pointless in establishing any atmosphere or narrative context. Throughout the show, we see a few showgirls in sequins and feathers to no great impact. The only notable production number involves a plane load of parachute jumping Elvis Presley impersonators who smuggle Jack from Hawaii back to Las Vegas to stop Tommy before he can snare Betsy for his wife, as improbable a plot idea as we are likely to see on any local stage this season.
The supporting characters who make most positive contributions to the evening are Marya Grandy as Jack’s oppressive mother and Steven Strafford as Tommy’s flunky. Christine Bunuan has some moments as a sexpot employed by Tommy to seduce Jack. Cole Burden has no luck as a lounge singer named Buddy Rocky but he is fine as the leader of the parachute jumping Elvis impersonators.
Alex Goodrich, Anne Gunn, and Ambria Sylvain team up to sing a very funny number as a trio of airline ticket agents determined to keep Jack in Hawaii while Tommy tries to ensnare Betsy in marriage. And a big shout out to Laura Savage as a bikini-clad chorine with a most distinctive performing style as a harp player.
The Marriott in-the-round stage denies the production any significant opportunities for pageantry but set designer Kevin Depinet and properties designer Sally Weiss have combined to create multiple settings by the swift entrance and exits of appropriate scenery. Jesse Klug designed the lighting, Brian Hemesath the costumes, and Robert Gilmartin the sound plan. As always, Patti Garland and her small accompanying orchestra are outstanding.
By the end of the first act I was pretty much ready to give up on “Honeymoon in Vegas,” but the production does pick up comic speed in the second half. And one has to admire the high energy Mahler, whose motor never stops running. As a piece of late summer fluff, the show has its merits, and the millennial dominated opening night audience whooped it up from first scene to last. I just wished I had seen the show they admired so vociferously.
– The show gets a rating of.
“Honeymoon in Vegas” runs through October 15 at the Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive. Performances are Wednesday at 1 and 8 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 4:30 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 1 and 5 p.m. with some selected Thursday shows. Tickets are $50 to $60. For information call 847 634 0200 or visit www.MarriottTheatre.com.
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