It Shoulda Been You has set a very high bar for the 30th Anniversary season of Stages St. Louis.
One of the most common comments I hear from St. Louis theatre patrons is how they wish theaters would bring something new to the region. While we love the classics, the St. Louis theatre community hungers for something new, something edgy, something different.
Well St. Louis, your theatrical prayers are being answered.
Fresh from the Broadway stage, Stages St. Louis offers up the first regional production of It Shoulda Been You. This is where I would normally detail the story and highlight the plot points—but not this time! The story is so engaging; I don’t want to spoil any of the details for you. But let me talk in broad stokes so you have an idea of what you expect. There is a wedding, hysterical family dynamics, plenty of comical hijinks, a magnificent score (so many songs!), and a central storyline that will make you feel, well, proud. How fitting for the month of June in St. Louis.
Let me be one of the first to congratulate Stages St. Louis for taking a risk with this production. Dealing with such sensitive issues, I was a bit nervous about how the crowd would respond. It could have went either way. Much to my delight, the crowd went all in, howling at every joke, never once scoffing or appearing to be uncomfortable. Bravo St. Louis—well done.
The score of the production is exquisite. Nineteen songs comprise the bulk of the one act production, each one a gem. No matter if it was a duet or an ensemble song, the entire score was memorable and entertaining. There were a few outstanding performances that need to be noted. “Perfect” with Jenny (Claire Manship) and Rebecca (Stacie Bono) was wickedly charming; “Nice” with Judy (Zoe Vonder Haar) was a fabulous showstopper; “Beautiful” with Jenny tugged on the heartstrings; and the “Finale,” featuring the whole company, was fantastic. Kudos to Lisa Campbell Albert and crew for another remarkable performance.
The cast is the stuff of which musical theatre dreams are made. Truly an ensemble cast, every performance was fully realized out and magnificently delivered. Seeing Kari Ely, as Georgette Howard, and Zoe Vonder Haar go toe to toe as dueling mothers was spectacular to watch. Both of these fine actors deserve every accolade they receive as they verbally danced with one another the whole show. Zal Owen as Marty was hysterical, David Schmittou as George Howard was perfectly pompous, Stacie Bono was radiant as Rebecca, and Edward Juvier was deliciously enchanting as Albert.
That leaves Claire Manship in the main role of Jenny. Manship’s vocals are going to stay with me for some time. There is a tone to her voice that is remarkable—Manship can sing. Whether she was serving sass in “Jenny’s Blues” or sincere emotion as she did in “Perfect,” Manship’s vocals were magical every time she opened her mouth. Her acting chops are equally impressive as she commanded the stage with a cool confidence each time she appeared. This is a performance that deserves some kind of trophy if you know what I mean.
With a spectacular score, an all-star cast, and a story that will keep you laughing the entire time, It Shoulda Been You has set a very high bar for the 30th Anniversary season of Stages St. Louis. Trust me honey, gather up your gays and sashay to the box office to snatch your tickets. With shows like Alice in Wonderland, The Drowsy Chaperone, and Sister Act still to come, this season could be the crown jewel in Stages already impressive tiara. | Jim Ryan