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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Actors Theatre of Indiana’s latest offering, It Shoulda Been You, was totally unknown to me before the theatre scheduled it for it’s 2016-17 season. Let’s just say this fantastic show really kinda sneaks up on you – in a good way. Filled with amazing songs, a tremendously funny plot-line, and a jaw-dropping surprise twist, the show – which was tightly directed by Bill Jenkins and musical director Brent Marty, with choreography by Carol Worcel – again proclaims ATI’s penchant for incredible hits.

The awesome cast is flawless in their presentation – I mean it, they’re simply impeccable. They are led by ATI founders, Cynthia Collins, spot-on as the snobbish mother of the groom, and Judy Fitzgerald, splendid in the role of the (shall we say) acutely stereotypical Jewish mother of the bride. The true starring role is performed by Karaline Feller – who plays the sister of the bride to be. Ms. Feller uses her beautiful, and powerful, vocal talents on a wide array of songs – comic, gritty, soulful and tender – and does so with impressive acuity.

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From left – Matthew Reeder (as Murray Steinberg), Judy Fitzgerald (Judy Steinberg), Nic Eastlund (Marty Kaufman), Holly Stults (Aunt Sheila) and Paul Collier Hansen (Uncle Morty) in a scene from ATI’s “It Shoulda Been You”.

Everyone in the cast, from the bridal couple, Michael Ferraro and Laura Sportiello (who played the young lovers in ATI’s recent The Fantastics); the wedding planner, a genuinely delightful character offered by John Vessels; the ex-boyfriend, a nifty surprise by Nic Eastlund; through the best friends, the fathers and the hotel staff – all have magnificent voices, which place the vocal blendings and the solos on a par with any you would hear in a new Broadway production. As I said – and repeat – they are impeccable!

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From left – Teneh B.C. Karimu (as Annie Sheps), Jeff Pierpoint (Greg Madison), Michael Ferraro (Brian Howard) and LFaura Sportiello (Rebecca Steinberg) in a scene from ATI’s “It Shoulda Been You”.

Technical aspects shine as well, beginning with P. Bernard Killian’s very functional set, plus wigs and makeup by Daniel Klingler, an awesome set of costumes by Katie Cowan Sickmeier, lights by Marciel Irene Greene and sound by Jonathan Parker.  Brent Marty’s first-rate four piece orchestra rounds out the supporting factors.

Now, do not go to see It Shoulda Been You, merely for the entertaining music – go for the uniquely original and modern story, as well. The book and lyrics are the work of Brian Hargrove, with music and concept by Barbara Anselmi – and I think this is a show which could be presented all over the country before very long  – it is just so fresh and inventive. (By the way, I have heard that this Indiana premier constitutes only the third “outside” production of the piece.)

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From left – Karaline Feller (as Jenny Steinberg), Holly Stults (Aunt Sheila) and Judy Fitzgerald (Judy Steinberg) in a scene from ATI’s “It Shoulda Been You”.

Bottom line: Good theatre at ATI is never really a surprise, but this fine production is near the very top of the list of those I have seen there. With great performers, a compelling story that simply has everything – humor, situation, tenderness, and an excellent resolution – and wonderful songs you’ve never heard before, you might want to do yourself a favor and go see it – I guarantee that you will enjoy it!

It Shoulda Been You continues at ATI’s Studio Theatre in the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel only through February 12. You can get information about the schedule and tickets by calling 317.843.3800 or by logging onto http://www.atistage.org .

  • – Photos by Kip Shawger
  • – Banner photo by Zach Rosing

 

 

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