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Friday, January 16, 2015

Honeymoon in Vegas (Nederlander Theatre)

By Harry Forbes

Jason Robert Brown demonstrates his extraordinary versatility with a brassy Broadway score miles removed from the lush and romantic semi-operatic outpourings of last season’s “The Bridges of Madison County.”

Andrew Bregman’s adaptation of the 1992 movie which starred Nicolas Cage, Sarah Jessica Parker, and James Caan, is more in the vein the musical comedies – emphasis on comedy – of the 1950s and early 1960s, one which, like so many of those, makes for a diverting evening on the town, perfect for the tired businessman, as they used to say.

Rob McClure, also showing versatility after his last Broadway stint in “Chaplin,” is Jack, the marriage-phobic boyfriend of Betsy (Brynn O’Malley). He has almost determined to shake off the ghost of his late, domineering mother (Nancy Opel) who had made him promise he’d never marry.

The couple heads for Las Vegas, but Jack allows himself to be suckered into a poker game with gangster Tommy Korman (Tony Danza) who spies Betsy, and thinks she’s the image of his late lady-love. Over a crooked game of cards, Jack loses $58,000 which, of course, he doesn’t have. He either faces physical injury or else must allow Betsy to go to Hawaii with Tommy for a platonic weekend. Complications ensue.

Though the show does sometimes seem as tacky (intentionally so) as the Vegas milieu in which it is partly set –Hawaii and New York are the other settings – the cast is good, and Brown’s score is mostly lots of fun.

Danza, a likeable mobster, reveals a pleasantly gravelly voice, and even gets to show off his tap dancing prowess. O’Malley is vocally strong, and proves a winning object of both men’s affections.

The show received good reviews at the Paper Mill Playhouse in 2013, and though I didn’t see it there, would seem to be little built-up for Broadway in terms of its modest but pleasant production values: Anna Louizos (scenery), Brian C. Hemesath (costumes), and Howell Binkley (lighting).

Director Gary Griffin knows how to stage this sort of funny business, and Denis Jones has provided the neat choreography.

The orchestrations of Don Sebesky, Larry Blank, Jason Robert Brown, Charlie Rosen capture the swinging ambience expertly.
(Nederlander Theatre, 208 West 41stStreet; Ticketmaster.com, by calling 877-250-2929)
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