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TRAVEL & ENTERTAINMENT: CenterREP's "It Shoulda Been You" Is a Heartwarming Musical Clash for the Ages!
Sep 09, 2016
by Jan Miller
Center Repertory Company’s production of “It Shoulda Been You,” currently playing through October 8 at the Dean Lesher Center for the Arts (1601 Civic Drive), Walnut Creek, CA is a funny and heartwarming musical culture clash for the ages as two families from completely different backgrounds come together to celebrate a wedding. The characters are broadly caricatured comic types one might find at a sitcom wedding, featuring an overbearing Jewish mother, a high-strung bride, an alcoholic mother of the groom, a flamboyantly gay wedding planner, etc. Simply put, this terrific ensemble of players makes this production terribly amusing.
The bright lights go up on a staging area at the elegant St. George Hotel (shades of Neil Simon’s “Plaza Suite”), where the lavish Steinberg/Howard wedding is to be held that afternoon. It also serves as the bedrooms of members of the wedding party, along with the beauty salon, various service areas and even the ladies room where the bride tries to hide when she gets cold feet. The stage is perfectly designed for providing plenty of doors to slam, closets to jump out of, and toilet stalls to hide in, once the wedding preparations become complicated.
A smartly staged opening number introduces the characters. There’s the overbearing mother of the bride (Cindy Goldfield, a true queen of comedy), the bride’s beleaguered father (Brian Herndon), the groom’s lush of a mother (Maureen McVerry, a wonderful performer), the groom’s very stern father (Richard Frederick), the gay-as-a-goose wedding planner (Scottie Woodard -- how can you not love him?), and, of course, the bride (the stunning Jade Shojaee) and groom (Nathaniel Rothrock).
At the center of all the chaos is the bride’s older, unmarried sister, Jenny, a “big-boned girl,” played with as much heart as humor by Elizabeth Curtis, who delivers a strong belt and deserves her moment in the sun. She gives a perfectly lovely, polished performance as the older sister who’s sick and tired of being treated like a jolly servant and wants people to stop fixating on her weight and see her beauty. And then comes the bride’s geeky ex-boyfriend, played by Jeremy Kahn, a perfectly wonderful actor who also deserves a break.
The comedic complications to this “perfect” wedding can all be expected: cultural tensions between the bride’s Jewish family and the groom’s family of goys; the re-appearance of the bride’s unwanted ex-boyfriend; the mishap that “ruins” the bridal gown, etc. As the father of the bride aptly puts it, “Oy!”
“It Shoulda Been You” confirms the sad truth that weddings — those supposed celebrations of everlasting love — can bring out the worst in some people. There’s plenty of the interdenominational kvetching, except that now it’s set to music, with lyrics such as these, from the title song:
“I don’t have a thing against gentiles.
I respect their heathen ways.
But everyone knows you never marry
When you’re in your goyim phase.”
At the end of the first act there’s an unexpected plot twist that promises to be a real game-changer. Without divulging too much, the bride and groom — and their maid of honor, Annie (the very talented Miia Ashley), and best man (Jason Rehklau) — turn out to have a secret or two to spring on the families.
There are lots of classic mother and mother-in-law jokes, and for a while it seems like the show is setting up an all-out catfight between the bride’s and groom’s mothers. But alas, before they can build up a head of steam, these two stylish actresses demonstrate a blanket of political correctness.
The show’s happy ending is quite contemporary, and without question has everyone in the audience leaving with a broad smile on their faces.
For tickets or more information on “It Shoulda Been You” please phone (925) 943-7469 or visit www.CenterREP.org.
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Photo caption: Suzie Shepard, Cindy Goldfield, Jeremy Kahn, Brian Herndon, Paul Plain are featured performers in CenterREP's "It Shoulda Been You."