HIGHLY RECOMMENDED - Hilarious antics and superb choreography make a marvelous Marriott night
‘Honeymoon in Vegas,’ a really nutty, crazily-wonderful musical now at Marriott Theatre, is so clever that it bears comparison to the 1950 Frank Loesser musical, ‘Guys and Dolls.’
The music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown will not go down in the American Song Book like Loesser’s “I’ll Know” or If I Were a Bell” but the lyrics are so outrageous that they bear careful listening to or descriptions will be missed because the music sounds so romantic and sentimental.
Imagine telling girls to dress up to their “molars” (to rhyme with high stake rollers) or characterizing an overly tanned female skin as “saddle bags.”
Set “Guys and Dolls” down in Vegas but minus the “Save-A Soul Mission”. Then fly the gal that the gambler pursues to Hawaii with him for the weekend instead of Cuba. Have him ply her with rum drinks and then have them fly back to Vegas.
However, the twist in the hilarious ‘Honeynmoon in Vegas,’ is that the guy who has trouble making a commitment is not the professional gambler or a friend like Nathan Detroit, but an ordinary Brooklyn “Joe,” Jack Singer. The problem is that Jack has trouble proposing and sealing the deal at the altar because he says his dead mother put a curse on him so he would never marry.
But Jack agrees to fly to Vegas where gambler Tommy Korman sees Jack’s girlfriend, Betsy Nolan, at the hotel where he hangs out and cons suckers. Tommy thinks she is a double for his dead wife and plots how to marry her.
Betsy is like Nathan’s Adelaid who wants a commitment. But she really wants it from Jack whom she loves so when it comes to succumbing to Tommy wiles, she reverts to a Sarah like character.
What Chicago audiences are getting from this regional premiere at Marriott is basically the Broadway show.
The musical’s book is by Andrew Bergman who wrote and directed the original film. It is insightfully helmed by Gary Griffin who directed the show on Broadway at the Nederlander Theatre. Marriott’s amazing choreography is by Denis Jones who did the New York show.
Kudos also to Brian Hemesath, costume designer for the Broadway production, for his terrific Elvis grouping and the Tiki style forms in the Garden of disappointed Mothers.
Add to that sterling background, the excellent interpretation of Jack by the multi-talented Chicago veteran actor/composer Michael Mahler, a nicely nuanced portrayal of Betsy by Marriott regular (Eva Peron, et al.) Samantha Pauly, and the perfect depiction of Tommy by Broadway veteran Sean Allan Krill and you have a memorable Marriott production.
Other notable cast members are Cole Burden as Buddy Rocky leading the entertainment at the hotel and as Roy Bacon, the Elvis leader, Steven Strafford as Tommy’s sidekick Johnny Sandwich and Christine Bunuan as Mahi whom Tommy had divert Jack from pursuing Betsy.
Some of the highlights of the show are whenever Marya Grandy appears as Jack’s funnily scary mom, Bea Singer, who keeps haunting him, and the “Flying Elvises” who help Jack return to Vegas from Hawaii.
A quick vignette of Jack flying to Hawaii in a middle seat crowded by clowning passengers is so true to life. The scene where flight desk attendants try to redirect him back to Vegas through Atlanta is a riot but hits on another too-true problem with flying anywhere.