New York City Theater
"Honeymoon in Vegas"
He sings! He dances! He charms! He re-invents himself! That’s Brooklyn-born former boxer Tony Danza, onetime wise-guy star of “Taxi” and “Who’s the Boss,” now wise-guy Broadway star. Singing and dancing (sort of) in the new, lively, lightweight, second-tier musical, “Honeymoon in Vegas,” Danza plays a gambler enamored of someone else’s squeeze.
Based on the 1992 film of the same name, the show, which has an attractive musical comedy score by Jason Robert Brown, is a glitzy, bright and, by design, bubble-headed evening with a few highs and a lot of lows. The highs include David Josefsberg, terrific in the dual roles of a smarmy lounge singer and a demented Elvis impersonator.
The lead is the endearing Rob McClure as a barely-Jewish shnook tied to his mother’s apron strings, even after she dies. The actor, who received a Tony nod for his Chaplin in the musical of that name, reels in the audience with his “who me?” demeanor as Jack Singer. We empathize with his dilemma and root for his resourcefulness.
When he tries to buy a wedding ring at Tiffany’s, he’s haunted by mom in a funny scene that has her appear in a display case to remind him about her deathbed admonition not to get married. Defying her, he and his intended, Betsy Nolan (a miscast Brynn O’Malley), fly to Las Vegas (“the land where dreams come true”) to get hitched.
But they’re soon derailed by Tommy Korman (Danza) who gloms onto Betsy because she reminds him of his deceased wife (“Just like Jay Z and Beyonce / I’ll make her my fiancée”), whose death from melanoma is detailed in the amusing song, “Out of the Sun.” Although he blames himself for letting wife Donna roast like a chicken and not providing her with a higher SPF, he sees his chance to recapture the past by tempting Jack to play poker, with Betsy as the stake.
Jack loses and, in Act Two, it’s off to Hawaii for Tommy and Betsy where he plies her with wicked tropical drinks. Jack arrives, bent on rescuing Betsy, only to be sideswiped by a randy taxi-driver who, as her song goes, wants to engage in “Friki-Friki.” Yet-to-come is the giddy chorus of Flying Elvises (“Higher Love”) and, of course, a happy ending.
It’s not the kind of show that upends audiences with surprise developments. Rather, it’s geared for laughs and tunes, getting a fair share of both. Directed with a light touch by Gary Griffin, it features walkabout, repetitive choreography by Denis Jones, bright scenery by Anna Louizos, gaudy costumes by Brian Hemesath and a jazzy onstage orchestra. To misquote the American Humane Society, no audiences will be harmed by watching “Honeymoon in Vegas.”
--David A. Rosenberg
Jan. 25, 2015