Jack Singer (Rob McClure) has the Jewish mother to end all Jewish mothers. On her deathbed, Bea (Nancy Opel) asks her son, “How can I know you’ll love me forever, unless I’m sure that you will never get married?” adding that “no other woman could love you like your mommy does.” Unsurprisingly, this Oedipal incident gives Jack more than the usual amount of commitment problems, and even though he loves his girlfriend Betsy (Brynn O’Malley), he can’t seem to pull the trigger and propose. But after a rather disastrous incident at Tiffany’s, the two decide to quickly get married in Vegas, which would be the end of the story if it weren’t for Tommy Korman (Tony Danza), a hotshot gambler whose dead wife looked exactly like Betsy. Tommy tricks Jack into losing fifty-eight thousand dollars in a poker game, but suggests that he can pay off his debt by loaning Betsy to him for the weekend.
Honeymoon in Vegas, which opened Thursday at the Nederlander Theatre, is based on a rather mediocre, early ‘nineties comedy starring Nicolas Cage, Sarah Jessica Parker, and James Caan—the kind of forgettable, PG-13 affair that largely survived in DVD bargain bins before the era of streaming rendered all DVDs a bargain. The musical, with a book by the film’s writer/director Andrew Bergman and music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, does a fine job in its first act of playing up the outlandishness of its premise while slinging amiable if unremarkable songs. In “I Love Betsy,” Jack belts, “I like singing on the pier / I like Broadway (once a year) / But I love Betsy!” then adds, “I like visits to the zoo / I love opera, that’s not true / But I love Betsy!” It also cuts the fat of the original script, deciding to nix Jack’s career as a private detective—which includes a client who swears his unattractive wife is cuckolding him with Mike Tyson—as well as an unnecessary supporting character, the pretentious and spacey Chief Orman, apparently based on Marlon Brando.
By the second act, however, the fat piles up again, and at two and a half hours, Honeymoon in Vegas overstays its welcome. True, Mr. McClure, who was phenomenal in the otherwise joyless Chaplin, is a tireless and endearing presence, ideal for musical theater. And his co-star, Ms. O’Malley, succeeds in the tough job of convincing us that Betsy might actually fall for Tommy in the space of forty-eight hours. Unfortunately, the headliner here, Mr. Danza, has trouble with projection (even with a mic, his singing is barely louder than the orchestra). But more importantly, most of the narrative is framed by an Elvis convention taking place in Vegas, and when you don’t have the money (or the inclination) for his songs, your own are going to seem pretty paltry by comparison. Having a slew of lookalikes muttering and scoffing in imitation of The King can’t make up for the fact that we never get to hear a rendition of, say, “Suspicious Minds.” The result, then, is a disappointing original work that might have been much better as a jukebox musical.