The Wedding Singer

Let me preface this with, I’m a big fan of the movie; absolutely loved it. The musical version of The Wedding Singer is nothing like the movie. So if you’re thinking of seeing this because you loved the Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore movie, you’ll probably be very disappointed with the script. Largely because they were unable to get the rights to the pop songs Sandler and others sang in the film. So no staged versions of Love Stinks, I Know This Much Is True, You Spin Me Right Round, etc…. there are still the two original songs from the film, I Want to Grow Old With You, and Please Kill Me, so at least we have that.

Likewise, there were some changes to the character’s relationships, specifically the characters of Sammy and Rosie, but also, to some effect, the rest of the characters as well. With Sammy, he’s now a member of the band rather than a chauffeur and he had a previous relationship with Holly, rather than the two of them finding each other at the end. I think it was better to have these two “players” who are both yearning for the things Robbie and Julia are striving for, suddenly find each other rather than having the baggage of an old relationship to deal with.

Rosie is now Robbie’s grandmother and he lives in her basement, rather than his sister’s. No singing lessons for Rosie, rather Robbie is supposed to compose some music for a poem she wrote for her husband. In this case, as grandma, she is able to have a more active role in Robbie’s life, (and it helps she is being played by such a charismatic actress like Darla Davis), and that makes the “intercourse” talk that much more funny.

Probably the most disappointing part of the script is Robbie singing Somebody Kill Me by himself in his basement, rather than having Julia encourage him to sing it to her, which was much more effective in the film.

However, the script is the script, and there is nothing the cast or director can do about it, and that certainly didn’t take away from an incredible production. I caught the Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday cast, whom, I was told by a season ticket holder as I walked in, is the “better” cast (I really have no way of judging between the two, and have no opinions on which cast is better, so I’ll just tell you what I saw). There were no announcements about substitutions, so I presume everyone listed in the program as part of THS was indeed there that night.

Bryan Matthew Hague (Robbie) actually plays guitar, which is a huge boon to the role. I would have definitely liked to see more from him emotionally. He played the emotion when it was scripted, but there were points I just wasn’t getting anything from him, which was a large knock against what was an otherwise stellar vocal and dance performance.

Ali Bennett played Julia with a wonderful sincerity that made us all fall in love with her. My only regret with her was that I wanted to see more of her in the show, just for her reactions, and the play, of course, didn’t lend itself to that.

Adam Meyers’ Glen Guglia was surprisingly likable and charming, and it was easy to see why Julia fell in love with him. The character of Glen could be played very one-dimensionally, and I was pleased Meyers chose to find the human side of Glen, as flawed as it is.

The ensemble is really the stand-out of this cast. Taking on multiple roles and shining throughout. There were times I found myself enjoying their performances more than the leads. Sean J. Carter, Michael Holt, Adrienne Nye, Bronwyn Tarboton,  Scott Stuart and Bonnie Wilson Whitlock each stole the show with their performances and characterizations.

And speaking of stealing the show, I can’t forget Cory Stephens as George! His performance was wonderfully effective. Very subtle, rather than blatant. He quite literally stole the show whenever he was on. Even when the focus was supposed to be on the other characters, we were all watching him, particularly after his Bar Mitzvah dance. We didn’t want to miss out on the funny.

The staging and choreography were simply outstanding. True, we don’t have those classic pop songs, but the choreography and lighting effects made every number look like an 80s music video. Casualty of Love, Saturday Night in the City, and Right In Front of Your Eyes all looked like they could have been filmed and played on MTV.

I want to end by talking about one change from the original film that I thought worked really well… rather than trying to make us believe that someone is the real Billy Idol and having the confrontation take place on the plane, they have Robbie meet a Billy Idol impersonator in Vegas, who then helps him find Julia and Glen. Along the way they meet impersonators for Mr. T, Cindy Lauper, Tina Turner, Ronald Reagan and Imelda Marcos (who struck me as the funniest of that group), and, of course, they all help Robbie win Julia over (and hold down Glen) as he sings I Want To Grow Old With You to her. Add to this that anytime someone addressed one of the impersonators, they called them by their character’s full name and fake; ie: “that’s right, fake Tina Turner.” Of all the things that were changed from the film, this was the one I thought worked the best.

“The Wedding Singer” is playing at the Hale Centre Theatre in West Valley, Mondays – Saturdays, June 15 -July 31 . The show begins at 7:30 p.m., with Saturday matinees at 12:30 and 4:00 p.m. Tickets are $22-26 for adults  $15-16 for children and are available by phone at 801-984-9000 or can be purchased online at www.halecentretheatre.org.

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