‘Honeymoon in Vegas’ Review — Place Your Bets on this Winning Musical
When a song about melanoma is not only side-splittingly funny but also liltingly beautiful, you know you’re in good hands. Indeed, all hands are winning ones in this regional premiere of “Honeymoon in Vegas” at the Marriott Theatre.
Inspired by the 1992 film of the same name but with the added buoyancy and poignancy of music and lyrics by three-time Tony winner Jason Robert Brown, the musical debuted in New Jersey in 2013 before its Broadway launch two years later. The best of Broadway comes to Lincolnshire with the trio of Broadway production director Gary Griffin, choreographer Denis Jones and costume designer Brian Hemesath.
Brown’s clever lyrics and compositional chops complement Andrew Bergman’s cheeky book, taking the audience to places beyond the expected: more irreverent and profane, while at the same time more nuanced and affecting. “Honeymoon in Vegas” is over the top in the best possible way. Indeed, it raises the ceiling for entertainment.
Griffin’s deft touch is everywhere, and the director’s experience with the show’s originators insured that it would make a graceful transition to the Marriott’s in-the-round stage, at once intimate and flamboyant. An ace technical team — set design by Kevin Depinet, lighting by Jesse Klug and sound design by Robert E. Gilmartin — enhanced by zippy projections design by Anthony Churchill make for a straight flush in this fast-paced musical, with never a wasted moment. Hemesath’s technicolor costumes — behold the showgirls! — and Jones’s lively choreography further up the ante.
With all that in place, the odds are already stacked in favor of “Honeymoon in Vegas.” A dream team of a cast brings it alive.
Hewing closely to the film, “Honeymoon” tells the story of a couple from Brooklyn who come to Vegas to tie the knot, a job that wasn’t going to get done at home, thanks to the perpetually cold feet of Jack Singer, marvelously sung and acted by Michael Mahler. Jack’s problem springs from a coerced promise at his mother’s deathbed that he would never marry. But death won’t keep mom (Marya Grandy) down. She keeps popping up in the unlikeliest of places, including the ring display at Tiffany’s, messing with her son’s head.
And what Jack’s head and heart want more than anything is to be with Betsy Nolan, his girlfriend of five years. With Samantha Pauly as Betsy, it’s easy to understand why. Pauly captures Betsy’s soft side — she’s an empathetic schoolteacher — along with her sassy street smarts.
Before the couple can seal the deal in Las Vegas, glam gangster Tommy Korman spots Betsy and is smitten: Betsy is a dead ringer for Tommy’s dead wife, Donna (Pauly plus chewing gum). Used to getting what he wants, Tommy draws on his considerable resources and quick mind to capture his prize. With his wonderful voice and movie star looks, Sean Allan Krill is tailor made for Tommy.
The leads are supported by a terrific ensemble, who seem to be having the time of their lives. Steven Strafford adds spice as Tommy’s sidekick, Johnny Sandwich. Cole Burden does dual turns as kitschy Vegas performer Buddy Rocky and Elvis impersonator Roy Bacon. Christine Bunuan nearly steals the show as Mahi, a Hawaiian escort-on-a-mission.
And those showgirls — Kristina Larson and Allison Sill — behold those showgirls!