In an attempt to avoid being unoriginal and predictable, It Shoulda Been You takes some serious chances. You have to admire the effort for sure. But through all of the twists and tricks, there isn't much of a payoff, at least one that makes much sense. The hysteria and last-minute action that develops is at least partially reminiscent of the end of a Shakespearean comedy.
There's still plenty to enjoy in the show, playing at the Brooks Atkinson Theater. It perfectly captures the insanity that can emerge on someone's wedding day, particularly what people -- even loved ones -- say about the bride and groom behind their backs. Lisa Howard takes the lead as the bride's sister, who steals the spotlight at least in the audience's hearts, as the older sister who feels her time will never come. Howard's somber "Jenny's Blues" is the biggest hit of the show, capturing the hardships she endures in silence.
Still, a lot of the book and lyrics and music from Brian Hargrove and Barbara Anselmi falls short of leaving a similar impression. First-time director David Hyde Pierce did the most he could with a star-studded cast led by Tyne Daly and Harriet Harris as the couple's mothers-in-law. They do everything they can to entertain with the material on their hands, but the difficulties of Jewish families getting along with gentile ones is well-trod terrain. A last-ditch push to make the play about how wacky families can be at times feels like forced manipulation more than an act of closure.
The production tries to be something more and to make an impact through comedy and shenanigans. Nevertheless, it comes apart at its seams. Perhaps it would have been better off with fewer musical numbers and more dialogue that would lead the audience down the inevitable path that it heads down. After seeing so much talent sharing the stage, you wind up wanting to walk away with more.