It Shoulda Been You? You should be thankful it wasn’t. This ever-so-slight musical premiered in the fall of 2011 at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick with some of the same cast, and although it’s been trimmed from two hours and two acts to an intermissionless hundred minutes, the panini-thin tale is still way too long. The show takes place at the fashionable St. George Hotel, where Rebecca Steinberg (Sierra Boggess) and Brian Howard (David Burtka) are getting married. Rebecca’s father, Murray (Chip Zien), is a mensch, but her mother, Judy (Tyne Daly), is opinionated, judgmental, and domineering, especially when it comes to her older daughter, the single and overweight Jenny (Lisa Howard). Brian’s parents, George (Michael X. Martin) and Georgette (Harriet Harris), are cold WASPs who aren’t exactly celebrating the union of their son with the very Jewish Steinberg clan. A wrinkle is thrown in when Rebecca’s old boyfriend, Marty Kaufman (Josh Grisetti), arrives uninvited, seeking to stop the proceedings. Meanwhile, all-knowing wedding planner extraordinaire Albert (Edward Hibbert) is prepared for just about anything and everything, except for a grand finale that is seriously outdated and embarrassingly offensive, wasting a dazzling, eye-opening performance by Drama Desk Award winner Howard (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, 9 to 5).
It Shoulda Been You opens with Jenny singing “I Never Wanted This,” and she might as well be speaking for the audience as well. Barbara Anselmi’s music, Brian Hargrove’s book and lyrics, Lawrence Yurman’s arrangements, and David Hyde Pierce’s direction are as standard as can be, flat and boring. The story is laden with plot holes, and the jokes, if you could call them that, are lame and repetitive; if someone mentioned a panini station one more time, well, I couldn’t be responsible for my actions. Just because you know your characters and situations are stereotypical retreads doesn’t give you the right to exploit them so shamelessly. And the ending, which purports to tell all of us that we should be who we want to be, to feel good about who we are, that it’s okay to be different, is actually a giant slap in the face not only to the audience but to anyone who has truly had to fight convention, tradition, and society in order to just be themselves. About midway through the show, Georgette asks, “Where Did I Go Wrong.” Where do you want me to begin? It Shoulda Been You gives even the worst of the Borsch Belt a bad name.