It Shoulda Been You is a fast-paced musical comedy about the Steinberg wedding: an unforgettable wedding day where anything that can go wrong does go wrong and love appears in all manner of unexpected places.
With a Jewish bride, Catholic groom, a pair of differently dominant mothers, the bride’s ex-boyfriend and dysfunctional family dynamics, this was never going to be a quiet little wedding – and certainly not with a ostentatious wedding planner at the helm. As the perfect wedding unravels before their eyes, plots are hatched, pacts are made, secrets are exposed – and the sister of the bride is left to turn a tangled mess into happily ever after.
This is a relatively new and modern musical, a genuine ensemble show designed to showcase the talent of a whole cast; politically correct it probably is not and the protagonists are broadly speaking stereotypical caricatures – but that is what makes this work so well and it is totally hilarious! At around 90 minutes, it is performed in one act and is a non-stop barrel of musical laughs. It would be so easy to overdo the larger-than-life personalities and make them false, but the physicality, comic timing and musicality from the entire cast makes this a joy to watch and listen to – and you are always laughing with not at credible and recognisable individuals.
From the brightly staged opening number that introduces the characters, through the satirical numbers such as ‘It Shoulda Been You’, ‘Nice’ and ‘Where Did I Go Wrong’, sheer comical bliss of ‘Back In The Day’ and ‘Albert’s Turn’, to the poignant ‘Beautiful’, passionate ‘Jenny’s Blues’ and moving ‘A Little Bit Less’ among the impressive and complex songs that the company perform with panache (accompanied by an excellent band under the conduction of co-musical director John Wilders), you are taken on a whirlwind ride through the wedding day.
It is churlish to pick out individuals amongst such a strong cast, and there are certainly no weak links at all in the ensemble performances. However, stand out performances for me include Victoria Howard-Andrews as the haughty Jewish mother-of-the-bride, Georgia Harper as the highly-strung alcoholic mother-of-the-groom, Lydia Edge (bride’s sister, Jenny), Oliver Johnson (bride’s ex-boyfriend, Marty), Maciek Shasha (groom, Brian) and Anand Sankar (flamboyant wedding planner, Albert). Izzy Black’s haunting rendition of her bridal song ‘A Little Bit Less’ is thought-provoking and beautifully sung, while special mention should go to Nick Ong in the hilarious and multiple roles as the groom’s father and uncle and assistant to Albert, with each character distinctive and impeccably funny!
Director Bella Norris has skilfully brought together an impressive cast of university students, from a wide variety of academic courses but with an evident shared love of musical theatre – and this common passion has translated into a very comprehensive and cohesive unit. Norris’ direction (assisted by the musical direction of Jamie Kimathi Milburn and Wilders, and choreography of Kimberley Pearson) has ensured that the quick-fire narrative flows at an impressive pace, with scene changes by the cast seamless and neatly incorporated into the action. The harmonies are intricate, the timings are complex and this is a difficult score to master – but master it they certainly did!
The tiniest note would be that on the rare occasions that the vocal pitch wasn’t perfect or the first-rate band overpowered the voices, this could be put down to the limitations of the venue (an adapted lecture theatre) rather than the quality of performances or skill of the sound technician. I would love to see them perform this on a full stage or dedicated performance venue!
I can honestly say that I have not laughed aloud so much at a comedy (musical or otherwise) in quite some time and enjoyed the music so much that I went home and bought the album – and that should speak volumes for the quality of this production; there can be no higher recommendation!
There are just two more opportunities to catch this show with a 2.30pm matinee and 7.30pm evening performance on Saturday 9 February at The Annex Theatre, Highfield Campus, Southampton. With tickets ranging from £5 – £10, pick yourself up a bargain and enjoy a thoroughly entertaining piece of contemporary musical theatre.