‘It Shoulda Been You’ was fabulous.
Presented at the Pavilion Theatre in Beenleigh, Pheonix Ensemble’s production of ‘It Shoulda Been You’ is the Queensland premiere of Brian Hargrove’s sensational Broadway musical. Featuring a sensational cast of powerful singers accompanied by a live band, this rendition is sure to entertain, shock, and deliver uproarious laughter. Filled to the brim with zeitgeist and chutzpah, with a little sprinkling of fabulous, the cast and crew have done a tremendous job in bringing this hilarious family-drama, romantic-comedy musical to life.
Without spoiling too much, ‘It Shoulda Been You’ delves into the controversies that arise when dealing with opposing religions, gay rights, and in-laws; with more drama than any regular family soap-operas. Chaos ensues as everything goes wrong in the lead up to a wedding ceremony between a Jewish bride (Grace Clarke) and her Catholic groom (Luke Devine). Throughout the show, the bride’s sister (Danika Saal) tries to hold everything together in the face of disaster including the bride’s ex-boyfriend (Shane Webb) showing up uninvited, and the mothers of the nuptial pair clashing claws (Della Days & Miranda Selwood).
From the very beginning of the piece, it was clear that the Director, Sheryl-Lee Secomb, has put a lot of thought and consideration into the production. Set design by Breanna Gear created a wonderful space for the performance. With billowy curtains, ornately arched windows, and a very fancy chandelier, I certainly forgot I was watching a community production in Beenleigh. The cast elegantly transformed the space into several locations throughout the performance with clever usage of several well-placed doors, or by rearranging the sweetly designed module chairs. The reveal moment of a certain set piece hidden in plain sight was genuinely delightful.
Lighting designer, Maddy Bosanko, made fantastic use of the lighting rig in the space, and expertly distracted the audience from scene changes in the set. The lighting also worked harmoniously with the band to elevate some of the romantic scenes to angelic new heights.
Musical director, Sally Faint, did a tremendous job with orchestrating both the band and the performers. The live band complimented but did not overshadow the action on stage. Special mention to a very cute moment where the band got involved in the fun with a meta joke which certainly tricked me initially.
The performers each held a wonderful balance in their comedic acting and their authenticity in their singing. Secomb did a wonderful job of embellishing the characters with great physical comedy moments that hilariously complimented the clever writing. Each scene was riddled with amusing asides and little moments of comedic interactions that elegantly gave way to the more heartfelt musical moments.
Danika Saal’s performance as the overlooked and unappreciated sister of the bride, ‘Jenny Steinberg’, was genuinely stunning and heartwarming. Her authentic delivery with a wonderful charm had audience members cheering them on from the very beginning. During solos, Saal effortlessly engulfed the room with a breathtaking voice. Several audience members were led to tears during the solo ‘Beautiful’.
The to-be-weds, played by Grace Clark as ‘Rebecca Steinberg’ and Luke Devine as ‘Brian Howard’, performed their roles very well. Their red-herring performances and sly romantic moments were indeed picked up early, yet the big reveal still came as a huge shock.
The parents of the bride played their archetypal roles with hilarious energy. Della Days and Miranda Selwood as the protective and antagonizing mother-in-law’s performed their scenes almost too well. Their adversarial hairdressing scene was delightfully devious to witness. And although the father’s did not get as much stage time, Warryn James and Steven Days their moments in the light were better than the best dad joke.
The spanner-in-the-works is played by Shane Webb as ‘Marty Kaufman’, the ex-boyfriend of the bride. Coming across as the friendly and kind family favorite, Webb was genuinely charming and a joy to see on stage, especially their unexpected and hilarious entrance. The chemistry he brought to the characters was tangible, and Webb’s rendition of ‘Whatever’ certainly pulled at the heartstrings.
Although we’re a long way away from Broadway, the professionalism of Pheonix Ensemble’s production of ‘It Shoulda Been You’ could have fooled me! From the outside, The Pavilion Theatre may seem like a big workers shed sitting quietly in a corner of the Beenleigh showgrounds. However, looks can be deceiving. Once the doors were opened and the audience was invited inside, it was truly amazing to see the talent we have hidden in the outer suburbs of Brisbane. Working in conjunction with such a talented group of creatives, Secomb has certainly created a thoroughly entertaining, and refined piece of theatre.
P.S. Be sure to head to the foyer to try the delicious love heart chocolates! The strawberry and cream heart is a wonderfully indulgent treat to enjoy during the intermission. Also available is a special cocktail for the event, “a lil’ somethin’ somethin’”, named after one of the best songs in the musical.
‘It Shoulda Been You’ performs until Saturday, 26 November 2022 at the Beenleigh Showgrounds. For more information visit their website: https://phoenixensemble.com.au/shows/it-shoulda-been-you/