This show was a fairly quick flop, but apart from the ever-more-popular theory that Jason Robert Brown’s Broadway efforts are somehow cursed, I can’t think of a rational explanation as to why. It’s based on one of the tightest and best-constructed cinematic farces of the Nineties, and actually manages to tighten and focus its source still further, eliminating some amusing but irrelevant minor characters, dealing more directly and thoroughly with the main character’s supposedly crippling mother issues, streamlining the plot, and generally fixing whatever miniscule flaws the movie may have had.
The film’s cast of Nicolas Cage, Sarah Jessica Parker, and James Caan seemed unmatchable, but the stage cast are actually better in their parts—Rob McClure is a much better fit for the show’s sweetly pathetic leading man than Cage, and Tony Danza, to the surprise of all, is an even smoother and more charming anti-villain than Caan was.
Apart from Danza’s wonderful star turn, which no-one would have expected from an actor weaned on mediocre sitcoms, the thing that carries the show is its score. This may not be Brown’s finest score from an artistic perspective, but it’s certainly his most enjoyable, forsaking his usual mix of pop-rock and Sondheim influences for music that sound for all the world like the work of the late Cy Coleman.
He keeps the Elvis motif from the film soundtrack for the showstopping eleven-o’clock number “Higher Love”, but varies it with the Sinatra-esque numbers for Danza’s character, including the at once darkly comic and heartbreaking “Out of the Sun”, the tender “You Made the Wait Worthwhile”, and the smugly swinging “A Little Luck”.
Also of note is the heroine’s beautiful ballad “Anywhere But Here”, and the hilarious comedy material for Nancy Opel as the hero’s dead mother, who rises up and haunts him as a living embodiment of his fear of commitment.
With this source, this score, and this star, the fact that this show is failing is baffling even by the standards of the wonderful shows that flopped during the last two seasons, as it seems to be the most natural crowd-pleaser among them. In any case, if you weren’t lucky enough to see this before it closed, then keep an eye out for future productions or check out the excellent cast album, because this is one of the most enjoyable evenings Broadway has seen in a long time.