It is certainly laudable when a regional theater attempts to present a premiere musical of its own instead of yet another revival, but this bland cross-fertilization of “Prince and the Pauper” meets “Guys and Dolls” with dashes of “Moonstruck” and “Grease” thrown in is so superficially tedious as to give you renewed appreciation for fifties shows that you might have considered trivial before seeing this. It is not that any single element of the show is bad: the music is pleasant, the choreography serviceable, et al, but they do not add up to a meaningful whole and in fact, you are often drawn out of the action to ponder why a given character would or wouldn’t do this or that. The piece is nicely bookended, for instance, by the mother of one of the leads who musically serves as a pre and post-show narrator, but we never get to know her nor what kind of relationship she has with her son for such prominent placement to have a context. When characters sing, there is rarely a reason for them to be doing so in that most of what is communicated via the music could less cumbersomely be spoken or even assumed rather than allowing the music to emotionally communicate what cannot be said by words alone. And why New Jersey? Other than an occasional “Joisy,” this could really be any Clichéville USA with an Italian-American community, and in fact, Elmwood Park might be a more credible setting for a Chicago audience, although one reference to Cicero—as if folks in Jersey would even know what, let alone where it is—got the biggest laugh of the evening. It is worth noting that three of the four principals were taking the night off. (Dennis Polkow)
Marriott Theatre and Resort, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, (847)634-0200. $42. Through September 10.