Honeymoon in Vegas may be a new Broadway musical, but it re-creates a version of Sin City that hasn’t existed in decades. There are no EDM deejays or clubs with bottle service and Elvis has not yet left the building (except maybe to put on a parachute). But director Gary Griffin’s production boasts an old-school showmanship and shtick-happy comic sensibility that harkens back to 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 oh-so-patient girlfriend of five years, 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 music perfectly complements the daffiness of the material. Brown won a richly deserved Tony last year for his operatic score to another movie-inspired musical, The Bridges of Madison County. This time, he leans heavily on pastiche of early-’60s swing and Elvis Presley (naturally), studding his polished tunes with witty rhymes like heinous and anus (and molars with high rollers). But while the songs are pleasant, and occasionally hilarious, 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 supporting cast. Standouts include Nancy Opel as Jack’s smothering Jewish mom, who pops up frequently (and uproariously) in flashbacks, and Catherine Ricafort as a Hawaiian tour guide hired to divert Jack with some naughty horizontal “Friki-Friki.”
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 Beyoncé / I will make her my fiancée.” (The serviceable choreography is by Denis Jones.) Speaking of Betsy, O’Malley is a crystal-voiced ingenue making the most of an underwritten character who behaves inexplicably, particularly in the whirlwind second act. She’s a heroine with no agency — or even a second-act ballad of her own — thrown to the mercy of two unworthy guys.
Despite an ingratiating stage presence and an enthusiastic tap routine, the ever-game Danza seems off in a role played by James Caan on screen. His Tommy is about as menacing as cannoli cream, lacking any of the menace you want from a heavy — even one who, we’re assured, is “not a gangster; he’s a garment center guy originally.” Unfortunately, Danza has even more stage time in this production than he did in the fall 2013 tryout at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse. And Matthew Saldivar, playing Tommy’s colorful sidekick Johnny Sandwich (”changed from Foccacia,” he explains), struggles to deliver comic bits of goombah humbug that never quite land.
But the production has at least one ace up its sleeve: Anna Louizos’ clever scenic design, from the climactic skydiving scene to a display case at Tiffany’s that rapidly transforms into a hospital bed for Jack’s mother. It’s in such moments that the throwback nature of Honeymoon in Vegas suggest a golden era of endless buffets of glamour and laughter. Grade: B