Hilarious and Tuneful “Honeymoon in Vegas” (Broadway – Preview review)


A sublime Brynn O’Malley, an excellent Rob McClure, and a top-form Tony Danza play the lead roles in the Jason Robert Brown scored stage adaptation of Andrew Bergman’s “Honeymoon in Vegas”. In a show that is one of the most all-around entertaining musicals I’ve seen in ages the score is tuneful, the jokes hilarious, and the actors firing on all cylinders.

Point of disclosure right up front — this is a review of a preview performance of Honeymoon in Vegas, seen before it’s opening later this winter. In all honesty, the show feels near-ready to go, and I’m not sure how much the extended preview period will change much of it between now and then. It already feels frozen, there is already a cast album out, and the production runs like clockwork. Still, this was a preview.

It is rare that a screenplay makes for a great musical, but this is one of those shows. Numbers land perfectly, lines are funnier in context here, and Jason Robert Brown’s lyrics are hilarious. He has also created a bubbly score that is perfectly suited to the material. The entire production feels like a throwback to musicals of a bygone era — and what a welcome addition this is to the current Broadway scene.

The musical barrels along at lighting speed, aided by the multiple drop/projection/and lift scenery created by Anna Louizos. Gary Griffin’s direction is fluid and clean. Stage movement is purposeful and focused. And funny. Very funny.

Rob McClure is perfect in the part created by Nicholas Cage in the movie. He is able to play putz and hero – a bundle of nervous energy, he matches beautifully with Brynn O’Malley as his girlfriend. She has a delicious voice, and perfect comedic timing, and a body that is cut. You can easily see why the guys are fighting over her.  Their ability to display an everyman human-ness makes for an even funnier stage device once the ultimate plotline comes into play — and they both individually and together play well against Tony Danza. He plays a mobster who sets up a fake poker game to contrive a loss so that he can ask for a weekend with O’Malley (who resembles his ex-wife) in order to erase McClure’s debts. Its the setup for a screwball comedy that comes to life at the Nederlander Theatre. Danza has a brat-pack type crooning voice, and its lovely here.

If you are not familiar with the movie, perhaps you are aware of its iconic signature scene — “the Flying Elvises” and they are here in full force as well. Creative stagecraft and a great musical rift assure that moment lives on stage as well as it did on screen. And I dare you to try to get the “jump-jump, jumpity-jump” out of your head afterwards.

Jason Roberts Brown has created one of the most tuneful scores in a long time, and his lyrics are clever, acerbic, and oh, yeah, funny. You’ll find creative rhyme schemes that incorporate such ditties as rhyming “Beyonce” with “fiancé”…and so many throw aways you can’t even begin to keep up (“I love opera…that’s not true”). The score is different from anything he has ever written — incorporating pop tunes, a bit of Elvis, and lots of light-hearted musical numbers. There are some pretty love-songs, and you will want to get the cast recording to listen to them over and over — this has already been released on CD and for digital download. This has been a stupendous year for JRB — opening  with The Bridges of Madison County this past winter, and now Honeymoon in Vegas this fall.

The entire ensemble is terrific, including Nancy Opel, she who has cursed McClure on her deathbed to never get married. David Josefsberg is hilarious as a lounge singer (among other roles). Matthew Saldivar makes for a hunky henchman to Danza, and his pitch-perfect dry delivery of his throwaway lines makes them anything but. Expect award nominations this spring for O’Malley, McClure, Danza, and Saldivar.

You are in for a delightful night of musical comedy theater, with an emphasis on the comedy, and you should put Honeymoon in Vegas on your must-see list. You will laugh throughout. And while I normally do not disclose spoilers, I must give one away right now — my favorite moment was Danza singing about his wife (who died of skin cancer) in the cleverly written kind-of ballad, “Out of the Sun” — as in, his wish to have gotten her out of it. The number is simply brilliant — mixing pathos with the biggest laugh-out-loud moment I can recall in a musical since The Book of Mormon.

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