It Sucks to Be You It Shoulda Been You

In many ways, I wanted to love love love It Shoulda Been You with it being a musical conceived from the ground up (remember when that was a consistent thing?). And it does have some clever moments. A Rebecca joke and a Buffy the Vampire Slayer reference? HERE FOR THEM. A clumsily inserted, but totally bonkers mid-show number in which the best man/maid of honor (the entire show is about shenanigans surrounding a wedding) sing about “loving you ’til the day you dieeeeeeee?” STILL HERE FOR IT. Lisa Howard being lovely and sangin' her face off? HERE FOR IT STILL.

But that…that’s just about it really. For each of those moments, I feel like It Shoulda Been You - holding up at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre - undermines itself with some downright sucktastic aspects on all fronts.

Like say, the nasty humor involved. It’s one thing to mine stereotypes for "comedy" bits and I’m not one to really be personally offended at these things, but…y’know, Lisa Howard is not fat. She’s not a size two, sure. But she's very pretty and even if she was fat, having her overbearing Jewish mother (of course) openly humiliate her and talk multiple times about how she wouldn’t be single and she would be much prettier if she lost a few pounds…yeah. Jew Mom even gets a full-blown evil song about being a total bitch passive-aggressively throwing shade to her future in-law (Oye, Tyne Daly…what do they have you doing, poor lady?). Also, as Howard is revving up for a diva solo, the Jew Mom express continues with her DGAF yelling out of, "why is she acting like a big, black woman?"

I feel like those moments are missing a pre-recorded laugh track. Or they were left on the editing floor of Marie Barone outtakes. If this is how you like to get your laugh on, reserve your seat at It Shoulda Been You and have yourself a ball.

As for me, I’ll just wait until the next time Douglas Carter Beane writes a book for Broadway. And for Daly to star in a different show where her otherworldly talents aren’t wasted.

Failed attempts at humor are one thing. But the biggest reason why It Shoulda Been You didn’t connect with me is that the story and the score - courtesy of the team of Barbara Anselni and Brian Hargrove - were so disaster-prone. The first-half of the show follows the silhouette of “here’s a new character that marginally relates to the storyline (if you can call it that), let’s give him or her a song that bears little-to-no resemblance to character development or the plot!” Rinse and repeat about a half-a-dozen times. There you go - first half of the show in the books! Everyone gets a song because why not!

And when its time for the plot to do its plot-thing, a whole bunch of twists happen that no one gives a fuck about and has a thinly-veiled social justice angle (no really). Nothing about the book or characters (from what little we know about them and I do mean ‘little’) make any sense at all, but we’re supposed to be fine with that because whatevs? When the songs from Mamma Mia are less contrived then your new musical - hell, when the characters and story from Mamma Mia follow logic better then your new musical - run for cover and don’t look back.

It Shoulda Been You is not the worst entry in the new musical canon to come out the last few years, mostly because it is light-hearted when it wants to be and it comes off like a dated, 90's sitcom throwback (just like its non-musical counterpart, Fish in the Dark). The platform for these types of shows are dwindling and for good reason. Broadway can - and should (no pun intended) - strive for more when it has the opportunity to.

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

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