So real, surreal “Honeymoon in Vegas” at the Papermill Playhouse

Charles Busch glam

No, it isn’t a revival of an old Broadway hit. Neither is it a hot property from London’s West End being transferred to The States. “Honeymoon in Vegas” is that rarest of rare things, an original musical written by Americans starring American actors, and it’s headed for Broadway after its short run at the Papermill Playhouse in Millburn. These days, that’s a novelty.


The cast and team behind "Honeymoon in Vegas" at the Papermill Playhouse. Photo by Ralph Malachowski.
The cast and team behind “Honeymoon in Vegas” at the Papermill Playhouse. Photo by Ralph Malachowski.

Based upon the eponymous 1992 movie by Andrew Bergman which starred James Caan, Nicolas Cage and Sarah Jessica Parker, the musical’s witty book is written by Mr. Bergman with the score written by Jason Robert Brown. The apparently simple love story of New York boy meets New York girl, dating for five years and about to get married becomes much more complicated as we encounter spirits of the dead, mobsters with seemingly unlimited power and wealth, and a secret garden of disappointed spirits. So, what is “Honeymoon in Vegas?” Is it a comedy, a surreal romp, or something involving all these and more? Think of “Moonstruck,” the 1987 romantic comedy starring Cher and the very same Nicolas Cage. It was quirky, it was weird, and it was lovable. “Honeymoon in Vegas” is a quirky, lovable, romantic comedy.

The musical opens with the orchestra on stage, front and center, playing big-band medleys that made the audience go wild. The attention to detail was so great that the first time the orchestra appears as an overture to the evening, they are dressed Las Vegas-style, in fedoras and dinner jackets. When they appear after the interval, they appear once again, but this time they are dressed in Hawaiian shirts. The musical has now shifted to Hawaii. It was a nice touch.

The story begins in New York. Jack is about to meet his fiancée of five years, Betsy. They will pick out a ring. Something goes wrong, very wrong (one of the great theatrical moments in the play), and the wedding is called off, until Jack decides it’s time, and the time is right now. They are to leave that night for Las Vegas to be married. As they check into their hotel, Tommy Korman, a vacationing mobster, sees Betsy as the identical twin of his late, beloved wife. Tommy must have her. Tommy may not be Lola, but “whatever Tommy wants, Tommy gets.” The ensuing mayhem revolves around Tommy’s pursuit of Betsy in Las Vegas and Hawaii until …. Well, you’ll have to see it for yourself.

The large cast included Tony Danza (Tommy Korman), Rob McClure (Jack Singer), Nancy Opel (Bea Singer), Brynn O’Malley (Betsy Nolan), David Josephsberg (as both Tony Rocky and Roy Bacon), and Matthew Saldivar (Johnny Sandwich). The starry cast more than fulfills their roles as they bring zest to their lively characters.

“Honeymoon in Vegas” played at the Papermill Playhouse until October 27. It has a planned move to Broadway.

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