Village Theatre has a tradition of bringing up new musicals (often ones showcased in their Village Originals Festival) onto the Mainstage. Sometimes it works ("Next To Normal" or "Iron Curtain") and sometimes it doesn't ("Take Me America" from earlier this season) and sometimes you have a really promising show that just needs a little more time to cook. Such is the case with "It Shoulda Been You" currently playing at Village. An incredibly strong cast in a show that doesn't always hit the mark or flow the way it could.
With book and lyrics by Brian Hargrove and music by Barbara Anselmi, "It Shoulda Been You" is your typical wedding story with a few surprises. One of those surprises I will refrain from spilling the beans on. Suffice to say, it's a fun twist on the "what can go wrong at a wedding" story. But the other little difference for this wedding tale is that the Bride and Groom are not necessarily the focal point of our story. Yes, Rebecca and Brian (Mara Solar and Timothy Wilson) are the ones getting married but the real story is following the harried Sister of the Bride and co-Maid of Honor, Jenny (Kat Ramsburg) as she tries to keep the wedding on track amidst a storm of sniping Mothers, a resurfacing ex boyfriend (Joshua Carter) and Panini stations. And to make matters worse Jenny is constantly reminded by her well meaning but overbearing Jewish Mother (Leslie Law) that she could be the next one getting married if she could just lose a little weight. So all the elements are there, the hung-over and a bit crazy wedding party (Diana Huey and Aaron C. Finley), the conservative parents of the Groom (Jayne Muirhead and John Patrick Lowrie), the lovable Father of the Bride (John Dewar), and the wedding planner from the Gods (Dennis Bateman) and his staff (Angie Louise and John David Scott) who aren't always rooting for the wedding to go well. But just when it seems cliché we get hit with that little something extra when they … nope, I said I wouldn't be the guy to ruin it and I won't.
But for all it's twists and turns and hilarious moments (and there are many), it just seems to stall out a few times. Some of that could be a new production finding its rhythm that'll smooth out in time. But my biggest problem had to be with the structure. Many of the songs want to go for a big finish but never quite get there. And many keep using the convention of interjecting dialogue after each verse, which is fine in some cases, but when a song wants to build to a frenzy, the interjections just seem to dilute the power.
Luckily the cast is phenomenal. Everyone had their moment to try and steal the show and they all manage to run with those moments. Solar and Wilson are wonderful as the couple this wedding is being forced upon. Huey and Finley are completely "adorkable" with their musical wedding present to the Newlyweds. Carter manages to take the intruding ex and turn him into a completely real and wonderful guy. Ramsburg as the driving force of the show completely sells the nuance of the character while still selling each number for all she's worth. And her powerhouse "Jenny's Blues" totally stopped the show. And I absolutely LOVED Law and Muirhead as the dueling matriarchs. Each of them took their characters and made them honest and sympathetic while never taking these outrageous women into caricatures.
A great cast in a show with a ton of potential. It's funny, raucous and full of heart and with a little more time to gel, I think it could really be a winner.
"It Shoulda Been You" plays at Village Theatre in Issaquah through April 22nd and then in Everett April 27th through May 20th. For tickets or information contact the Village Theatre box office at 425-392-2202 in Issaquah or 425-257-8600 in Everett or visit them online at www.villagetheatre.org.