There was a lot that could go wrong when you’re putting on a show like It Shoulda Been You. A musical-comedy is best to be avoided when considering how many invitations for failure there are inherent in the genre. Cringey dialogue, cheap jokes that fall flat, plots that adorn absurdity, are all too common; worsened by the addition of the setting of a wedding and the notoriety of student theatre. As well as the risky choice of musical-comedy hanging in the air, the opening night of It Shoulda Been You completely sold out. For the first time in a long time, the Lemmy was actually turning people away. There was a lot riding on this show, and a lot that could go wrong.
The cast and crew completely pulled it off. The performance was an utter triumph. Attention to detail was apparent from the very beginning, when Albert the Wedding Planner provided the audience with the venue’s fire safety information in full character before “the ceremony” began. The opening roll-call nature of ‘This Day’ introduced the excellent comic delivery of the characters that would allow them to skip past potholes of the genre. When Wedding Crasher Marty Kaufman reveals himself to be a member of the audience and gallops through the row exclaiming “It’s a sign!”, the seemingly cringey premise is overcome by the energy fuelled into the performance. The production stares every cliché in the face and responds with an abundance of panini station jokes (a surprisingly funny theme throughout the show).
From the start, Albert the Wedding Planner and Judy Steinberg (the Mother of the Bride) are set apart as scene stealers. With some of the wittiest lines, these two characters take on their expected triteness and elevate it to transcend tired stereotypes. Just as the fear sets in that we may be too reliant on Albert and Judy though; every other character has their own shining moment to earn their place on the stage. Georgette Howard, the groom’s mother, stuns in her rendition of ‘Where Did I Go Wrong’. Meticulously choreographed and executed, her comic performance gives authenticity to the rivalry between the mothers. Even when the rest of the cast are at risk of being mere plot drivers, they all have instances which consolidate their own entertainment values. A key example is the Best Man and co-Maid of Honour’s serenading in ‘Love You Till The Day’, rife with flamboyancy and irony. No one can be dismissed when they all demand to add further charm to the show.
The supporting actors as scene stealers can always lead to danger though, when the audience end up not caring about the main characters or their storylines. Fortunately, the show avoided this through the two leading Steinberg sisters having the most tender moments of the night. Rebecca Steinberg’s ‘A Little Bit Less Than’ brought a shining light to the bride, who had previously been side-lined at her own wedding. Delivered with such softness, it gave Rebecca a chance to separate herself from the dominating eccentrics of the family and introduce some much-needed emotion. Similarly, Jenny Steinberg’s development arc from the raw ‘Beautiful’ to the tenacious ‘Jenny’s Blues’ proved to be so powerful that the audience’s applause and cheers persisted for a deafening amount of time. Tender moments were essential to give the show layers and prevent it from flat-lining narratively, and so the superb execution by the leading ladies ensured that they would not be overshadowed by their fellow cast.
The mics taped to the cheeks of the actors helped to remind us that this was student theatre, even though it was easy to forget when the cast gave such a phenomenal performance. By the time they exposed the plot twists, audible gasps and raised eyebrows flooded from the audience as they were so engulfed by the show. Everyone plays with, and rejects, all the pitfalls expected of a wedding-set musical-comedy, a feat which is rarely seen. The entire cast and crew should be proud of what they have achieved, somehow making every tired wedding trope their ‘something old and something new’. This is one wedding which everybody should want an invitation to.
– Charlotte Forrester
Featured Image Courtesy of Exeter University Shotgun Theatre Society.