Stage Review

Honeymoon in Vegas

HONEYMOON IN VEGAS Tony Danza and Rob McClure
Image credit: Jerry Dalia
HONEYMOON IN VEGAS Tony Danza and Rob McClure

In the Las Vegas of the new musical Honeymoon in Vegas, there are no EDM deejays or clubs with bottle service. Elvis has not yet left the building (except maybe to put on a parachute). Director Gary Griffin's guffaw-out-loud production, playing through Oct. 27 at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, N.J., boasts an old-school showmanship and shtick-happy comic sensibility that recall the Sin City of the Brat Pack era.

It starts with a decidedly silly story, adapted by Andrew Bergman from his own screenplay for the 1992 movie starring Nicolas Cage and Sarah Jessica Parker. A commitment-phobic guy named Jack (Chaplin star Rob McClure) decides to elope in Vegas with his longtime girlfriend, Betsy (the lovely Brynn O'Malley). She turns out to be a dead ringer for the late wife of shady gambler Tommy Korman (Tony Danza), who then rigs a poker game so that Jack, now $58,000 in debt, will agree to an Indecent Proposal and loan Betsy to him for the weekend. Confusion, misdirection, and an airborne chase ensue, culminating in a troupe of skydiving Elvis impersonators making a grand entrance before the final curtain.

Happily, Jason Robert Brown's zippy score is a mostly perfect complement to the daffiness of the material. Brown — who has another movie-inspired musical, The Bridges of Madison County, due on Broadway this season — has penned some of the wittiest lyrics in recent memory, outrageously rhyming words like heinous and anus (and molars with high rollers). His polished tunes lean heavily on pastiche of early-'60s swing and Elvis Presley (naturally), but there's no ensemble number that really pops.

Still, the laughs come as fast as pulls on a slot machine, thanks in part to a winning cast. Standouts include Nancy Opel as Jack's smothering Jewish mom, who pops up frequently (and hilariously) in flashbacks, and Matthew Saldivar as Tommy's colorful henchman, Johnny Sandwich (''changed from Foccacia,'' he explains).

McClure, who resembles the love child of Paul Reiser and Roberto Benigni, again displays his gift for physical comedy, particularly when he joins the flying Elvises or mimics the ''Single Ladies'' dance while singing of his beloved Betsy, ''Just like Jay-Z and Beyonce / I will make her my fiancee.'' (The choreography is by Denis Jones.) Speaking of Betsy, O'Malley is a crystal-voiced ingenue whose underwritten character behaves inexplicably, particularly in the whirlwind second act.

Despite a lovely soft-shoe routine, the ever-game Danza seems a bit off for the James Caan role. The TV vet isn't much of a singer and he radiates a sweetness lacking any of the menace you want from a heavy — even one who's ''not a gangster; he's a garment center guy originally.'' But the Paper Mill production has another ace up its sleeve: Anna Louizos' clever scenic design, from the climactic skydiving scene to a display case at Tiffany's that transforms into a hospital bed for Jack's mother.

While Honeymoon in Vegas may not be quite ready to parachute into Broadway just yet, what happens in this stage version of Vegas ought not to stay here. In New Jersey, of all places. B+

(Tickets: papermill.org)

Originally posted Oct 08, 2013
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