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It Shoulda Been You (Years Ago)

Date: May 01, 2015
Why I was almost as excited about Josh Grisetti's Broadway debut as he was


For any performer, making it to Broadway is usually a dream come true. But for Josh Grisetti, currently costarring in the campy musical comedy It Shoulda Been You, it was the end of a very long nightmare. Okay, fine, I'm being a bit over-the-top, but so is Grisetti -- and that's part of what makes him so awesome.

I first saw Grisetti in 2009 in what should have been his breakthrough role: the York Theatre Company's revival of the 1976 flop So Long, 174th Street (rechristened Enter Laughing). Though most of that show's Borscht Belt humor was about as fresh as a week-old bagel, I immediately fell for Grisetti, who looked like the kind of nice Jewish guy I never brought home to mom, but sang, danced, and acted like a leading man. Most attractive of all, he was funny. Equally skilled in verbal and physical comedy, Grisetti inspired that rare kind of body-shaking belly laugh that made me wish I had used the bathroom before the show. I felt like I had discovered a major star-to-be.

In fact, I was so excited by his potential that I started fantasizing about him in other musicals: I mentally cast him as Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors, Hysterium in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and J. Pierrepont Finch in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. I couldn't wait to see what he did next, and I was sure it would be on Broadway. So a few months later, when Grisetti was cast in (ahem) a Broadway-bound revival of Neil Simon's Broadway Bound, I eagerly waited for it to open. It never did. Soon after, a Broadway transfer of Enter Laughing was teased; that production didn't happen, either.

At the time I thought, "How ironic: here are two shows inspired by the real-life beginnings of two major Broadway writers, and neither revival made it to the Main Stem." Clearly tastes had changed. And that made me worry for Grisetti. Although I figured he was more than capable of taking on contemporary roles (he ended up making a fine Mark in the Off-Broadway revival of Rent), he seemed like a throwback to another era, when an adorkable goofball like Robert Morse or Eddie Bracken could become a star. I couldn't picture Grisetti as the next Matthew Morrison or headlining a Disney megamusical, and I wondered if, despite possessing a crack comic barometer, his career timing was off.

So it makes sense that Grisetti has, at long last, made what he calls his public Broadway debut in the recently opened It Shoulda Been You. Though set in the present, the musical feels unabashedly old-fashioned. As Marty -- the nice, Jewish-mama-approved ex who crashes the wedding of the woman who seemingly could have been his bride -- Grisetti is seriously crush-worthy. In a recent interview, he joked that the character was pulled from his "'Quirky New York Jews' trunk… 30% quirky comic charm, 25% romantic leading man, 25% neurotic nerd, 10% boldness, 7% pure innocence (used wisely and sparingly), 3% pure idiot (used less wisely and at random)."

But I would up that romantic percentage by a lot, and I know I'm not alone. Since it's a true ensemble piece, Grisetti only gets one solo number, "Whatever," but it gives audiences a peek at what he can do, though his comic reactions are even funnier in the title tune, during which his could've-been in-laws kvell over him. And -- Spoiler alert! -- he ends up with the zaftig Jewish chick. As one myself, that was my Broadway dream come true: a plus-size gal who gets the cute geeky guy. How nice that it coincided with Grisetti's dream: He finally made it to the Great White Way. Just like six years ago, I can't wait to see what he'll do next.


Raven Snook
is the associate editor of TDF Stages

Photo: Josh Grisetti (center) flanked by the cast of It Shoulda Been You. Photo by Joan Marcus.