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The CenterRep opens their 2016-17 season with a gorgeous wedding that we are all invited to. The Bay Area premiere IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU is now on stage at the Margaret Lesher venue through Oct 2. The 2011 hilarious musical has arrived from its successful Broadway run. Based on the classic comedy of a Jewish Goy wedding Abie's Irish Rose , this is a modern version of the story that takes us on a wild wedding day ride. IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU could remind you of a classic Catskills show featuring the iconic Jewish humor and family that would have played the Borscht Belt during the 40’s. Music by Barbara Anselmi, book and lyrics by Brian Hargrove, this very funny musical is a sure hit for CenterRep audiences, who for the most part have sold out this run. Directed by the accomplished Marc Jacobs he brings a shining cast of comic performers and quality singers headed by the the powerhouse Elizabeth Curtis as the bride's sister Jenny.

We join the story the day of the huge family wedding, featuring an energetic cast of comic pros who take a simple Bridezilla tail to very amusing twists. Director Jacob’s has staged the romp with a skillful flair that makes the two hours fly by. It is a musical show that is truly a "guilty pleasure” and the bride's sister, Jenny (Curtis), opens the story with “I Never Wanted This” letting us know from the get go that she wants her sister's life. Curtis is the heart of this story and has a superb voice, along with the supporting cast.

The characters are excellent comic caricatures you would find in a sitcom wedding with the overbearing Jewish mother, the neurotic stressed bride, and a wise cracking mother of the groom. The flamboyant wedding planner, played lovable by Scottie Woodard with his staff Suzie Shepard and Paul Plain. Shepard is also the sexy cougar, Aunt Sheila, while Plain doubles as a bland Uncle Morty. The best woman is very special, played by the likeable, Annie Sheps, who is a perfect fit for best man Jason Rehklau. Jacobs and his terrific ensemble cast make this wedding as screwball as any Marx Brothers film or Hepburn in Bringing up Baby.

The company is high energy in “This Day” the song that introduces us to all the players, on a smart designed wide open polished Hotel lobby set by Kelly James Tighe. The two-level hotel set features plenty of doors for slamming, that includes a neon sign letting us know that we are at the elegant St George Hotel in New York. Tighe’s set has those many doors needed to bring the actors on and off stage with their hijinx and hide and seek humor.

Choreographed by Gia Solari, she kept the cast moving in the clever company opening, and Jacob’s lively direction makes sure to keep the ex-boyfriend on the run. The bride, Rebecca, played by the marvelous Jade Shojaee, and Curtis show a warm sister rivalry in the song “Perfect” as the two sisters figure it out. They both have satisfying voices and prove Hargrove’s songs are as emotional as they are humorous. The comic pros of dad and mom are played by Bay Area vets Cindy Goldfield and Brian Herndon. Jenny asks her father “Dad are you alright” “yeah I am fine, your mother and I had words, but I didn’t get to use any of mine“ Hargroves lines keep the audience giggling the whole pre wedding.

Goldfield and Herndon manage to make the bluish of jokes likable and hilarious while the story concerns the stressful marriage of the Jewish princess, Rebecca, to the Catholic boy next door, Brian, played by the dapper and adorable Nathaniel Rothrock. He sings “Back in The Day” with his dad George played by the charming Richard Frederick. The families open up to reveal they really love the ex-boy friend, Marty, played by the delightful Jeremy Kahn in the song “It Shoulda Been You” that also highlights the keen voice of Mom, Cindy Goldfield.

The matriarch for the Catholic side of the wedding is Georgette played by the very funny Maureen McVerry who is always at odds with her husband. Other characters in and out of these hotel room doors are best man Greg played by local favorite Jason Rehklau and maid of honor, Annie Sheps. Scene stealer, Scottie Woodard, as the flamboyant wedding planner who is on top of all the needs of the moms and bride "I am glad I did not ask for this day off". The bride's former boyfriend, Marty, who’s only goal is to stop the wedding takes the story through some unexpected doors and closets.

Anselmi’s score provides some excellent songs for these actors, the highlight of the night effectively sung by Curtis’ “Jenny’s Blues” that brought down the sold out crowd at the Margaret Lesher theatre. Jeremy Kaufman, the frisky ex-boyfriend, is spontaneous beginning with his first appearance as his character receives an accidental phone call from Jenny while sitting out in the audience. Yes this story can be very predictable and contrived, but the Jewish humor is the best versus the groom's goys. The plot twist late in the show will not shock many but it is well timed. Costumes by Maggie Morgan keep all the men in the perfect tuxes, and the women are all bright gowns and dresses. Solari’s choreography is at its best in the big company numbers including “A Perfect Ending” and a great dance duo with Frederick and Howard in “Back in the Day”.

Shojaee sings a graceful solo ballad “A Little Bit Less Than” that respects her gorgeous voice and her intelligence. Music director, Brandon Adams, and his seven member pit are impressive, and Adams brings the best out of his ensemble. The lighting by Michael Oesch is plush as the back room colors of the hotel work into the main lobby set. “That's Family” featuring the confused relieved parents at the end of the two hour romp, and even though I have left out the punch line to this wedding afternoon, the two families end the zany day with smiles on their faces. IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU is the perfect heartwarming musical to start your fall season of theatre, and lets all hope that we get a second invite to the reception. Next up at CenterRep is the comedy mystery Ken Ludwig's Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery. Tickets for IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU are limited, but if you are lucky enough to attend this wedding, book your seats soon.



A hilarious and heartwarming musical that is a culture clash for the ages.

Book & Lyrics by Brian Hargrove, Music & Concept by Barbara Anselmi

Directed by Marc Jacobs

Music Directed by Brandon Adams, Choreographed by Gia Solari

Through: Oct 2, 2016

Lesher Center for Performing Arts,

Margaret Lesher Stage

1601 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek

Running time: 2 hours one intermission

Tickets: $37-$63; 925-943-7469,

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