If you haven’t seen the movie “Honeymoon In Vegas”, with those celebrated dramatists Sarah Jessica Parker and Nicholas Cage, you really need to watch it right now. It’s one of those awful but amazing movies that is completely offensive when you think about it but if you choose not to think about it then it’s just super fun. Nicholas Cage plays a man who is haunted by his deceased overbearing mother who told him never to get married. His unlucky blonde girlfriend Betsy (Sarah Jessica Parker) obviously wants to get married because that is all women aspire to do in life, and also they are always blonde if they are worth all this fuss/treating as currency.
Okay, so it’s on Broadway now with a score by my love Jason Robert Brown, in a serious detour from his past/serious/artistic stuff. You can tell he had fun with this one, relishing the opportunity to write hysterical, silly songs in a range of styles suitable for Vegas, from Sinatra-like crooning to Elvis-style rock to an actual number about straight flushes. The show stars the already great Rob McClure as Nicholas Cage, well as Jack Singer, and he is the biggest reason to see this show. I said already great because Rob has only recently become a recognizable name in the Broadway community, after his fabulous Tony-nominated performance in “Chaplin”. (He’s also widely considered the best guy to work with on shows, as no one beats his work ethic.) The producers are hoping that you want to see the show because Tommy Korman is played by Tony Danza, yes that Tony Danza, and no when I met him after and got a freaking picture with him and his arm was on my back I FORGOT TO SAY “Hold me closer Tony Danza” and I will never ever forgive myself for missing that opportunity of a lifetime.
Anyway, Rob as Jack is completely winning, and despite the character’s serious commitment phobia and other flaws, he successfully wins you over with the very first song. He’s in New York, and he sings about all the things in life he enjoys and likes, but how the thing he loves is Betsy. “I like taxis, I like trains, I like Brooklyn when it rains, but I love Betsy. I like walking after dark, I like jogs in Prospect Park, but I love Betsy.” It’s catchy as f@&$, unfortunately, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head for 3 weeks now. He’s so adorable in this song, and so necessarily charming, that he gains needed leeway in terms of your forgiveness for his actions to come. Comparing his girlfriend to all these activities and objects that he merely likes is also a great way to set the tone of the misogynist show to come, in a chipper way.
The high energy continues as Jack takes Betsy to Tiffany’s to finally propose, and in a fantastic little bit of theatre magic, one of the display cases turns in an instant to a hospital bed holding his dying mother, the ridiculously hilarious Nancy Opel, in a flashback to her death 10 years prior. She tells her son never to get married because no woman would ever love him like she does. It’s pretty absurd and amazing all at once, and it all just works.
Actually, side note, the most absurd and amazing part of the show was when the people sitting behind me – who I recognized from the rush line that morning, so they know at least a little about living – were talking and one girl said “What’s this about?” and the other said “Oh you never saw the movie? It’s like this really interesting drama that Woody Allen wrote and directed and you can tell it’s just sooo Woody Allen, you know?” I died. The movie is written by the guy who wrote “Fletch”, FFS. Not Woody Allen. My brother had tears. And he said loudly later “Yeah I love that they kept so many of Woody’s lines” and other things to mock these idiots. It was HILARIOUS. Also in line for the bathroom, these old ladies were talking about how “the girl in the Demi Moore part” was adorable and how “no one can beat Robert Redford, though.” Which is at least a tiny bit more forgivable because “Indecent Proposal” is just the slightly less funny version of the same exact movie, but still. How do people not know “Honeymoon In Vegas”?! It’s a Cage classic!
The pacing of this first act is so tight and really well done. Tony Danza as Tommy Korman is fantastic. He can’t really sing, and he is given WAY too many ballads that prove this, but he is pure charisma and he oozes that mobster-ish sleazy charm. He also gets a tap number that is actually really impressive.
My favorite Tony/Tommy song is pretty awful, in subject matter and black humor, but it’s so funny. When he first sees Betsy in his casino, he is shocked at her resemblance to his late wife. How did his wife die, you ask? Well, he sings about it. We move to a beach scene, and his wife is laying by the pool in the sun. Day after day after day. Tommy sings about how he should have made her get out of the sun. She died of skin cancer. It’s awful. But it’s so funny! Some people are saying how this song is really offensive and unfunny, but everyone in my packed audience thought it was hilarious. Also, it’s a good message?
Anyway, everything gets more ridiculous as Jack decides to go to a poker game Tommy invited him to, instead of rushing to marry Betsy as they came to Vegas to do. He says he’ll just be an hour, but obviously he stays much longer and she gets upset while shopping for her dress and all her shoes and stuff because she is a woman and just shops and shakes her head disapprovingly while she waits to get married. Brynn O’Malley is great in the role, really lovely and a strong singer, but she must have to do some serious readjusting of the brain pan after every show. I hope that she has a sign over the mirror in her dressing room that says “You are a worthwhile person and not just as currency!” or something like that.
So as the poker game goes on and on, this one song obviously called “The Game” goes on and on, and showgirls hold up enormous playing cards to show the men’s hands. It’s all just so ridiculous and yet so enjoyable. That’s the basic summary of this show. Anyway, they get to the part of the song when they sing “Straight flush!” and “Jack of diamonds, queen of diamonds, king of diamonds…” etc. as the notes get higher and higher. I really love that JRB wrote that. So Jack bets more money than he has and OMG I just realized why her name is Betsy, because she ends up standing in for his bets or something I wonder if the writers did that on purpose or if that’s just a really wonderful coincidence??? Yes so Jack loses $58,000 even thought he had a straight flush to the king, because Tommy had a straight flush to the ace. Yeah that is totally realistic and would ever possibly happen in a million years. No, we learn later Tommy obviously cheated.
Without the money to pay his losses, Jack is pretty forlorn and torn apart. Luckily! Tommy says heyyyy, how about we come to an agreement – this is the song called “An Agreement” – where I get to borrow your fiancée for the weekend? And Jack says absolutely not, that is disgusting and wrong! But Tommy has all that Terry Benedict charm and convinces Jack that it’s the only way to not lose Betsy, because if she found out how much money he lost, she would leave him anyway. So it’s worth a try!! No, it’s really not.
When Jack tells her what has happened, Betsy is obviously shocked and mortified and she refuses to be treated as currency, but then she gets reminded that she is a woman and that she only matters so far as the men say she does, so she agrees. I don’t know, it makes sense during the show but then when you think about it you are like whaaaaaaaaaaaaat. So she goes to Hawaii with Tommy, who like owns an island, and Jack is like what? You can’t take my fiancée to Hawaii! And Tommy’s people are like, well you only had parameters on the timeframe, not the location. Boom! Lawyered!
Jack realizes he was a total idiot and he flies to Hawaii to save Betsy from her lovely weekend with Tommy, who is nice but so sleazy. He even hired people to pretend to be his relatives so he would look good. And of course he lies about how much money Jack actually lost; when Betsy mentions the $58,000, Tommy says “Is that what he told you? He only lost $800!” or something horrendous that you’d assume Betsey wouldn’t believe, or that she’d at least be suspicious, but she is like drunk and really likes the pineapple in Hawaii so she believes him. Meanwhile, Jack tries to find Tommy’s house but Tommy pretty much owns everyone and everything on the island and he planned ahead to make sure everyone does their darnedest to keep Jack distracted if he followed them. The weakest part of the show is when the local Hawaiian, Mahi, yes that is her name, tries to seduce Jack in the jungle in a song called “Friki Friki.” I don’t know if I have ever cringed so hard during a song in a show. I wish they cut that. The rest of the audience seemed to like it though, somehow.
While Jack is being led all over tarnation by Tommy’s people, Tony Danza is inexplicably getting more and more ballads to sing and Betsy is getting drunker and madder at her spineless fiancé, so she agrees to marry Tommy. Okay monster man. They immediately fly back to Vegas. Jack finds out, and – in the most important scene of the movie and therefore of the play – hitches a ride back to Vegas with a troop of Flying Elvises, with his only option for landing being to skydive with them. It’s the best! I wish the show’s budget had had room for a more impressive skydive display, but then again it is happening on a stage, so it’s okay. The Elvises are a lot of fun, and Rob does his best Cage impression when he yells ‘BETSY!!!!’ and even though these Elvises are skydiving and landing who knows where in relation to the Las Vegas Strip, Betsy obviously hears him and runs up to him because we like things to be realistic. They reconcile and apologize and yada yada yada they get hitched and it’s all really happy and fun and that’s the show, folks. You really should see it.