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Preview: The Wedding Singer

Community Players Goes Back to the 80s with The Wedding Singer

Do you ever feel nostalgic for the era of Michael Jackson and Madonna?  Ronald Reagan and Gordon Gekko?  Big hair and shoulder pads?  If so, moonwalk on over to Robinhood Lane and jump in Community Players’ time machine for a loving if tongue-in-cheek trip to the 1980s with The Wedding Singer.

Based on the 1998 Adam Sandler movie, the stage musical tells the story of Robbie Hart, the wedding singer of the title, whose band has had great success playing wedding gigs all around New Jersey.  His attitude toward marriage and his band’s success, however, go downhill after he is left at the altar by his fiancée Linda, who wants him to be a real rock star.  His bandmates Sammy and George along with his grandmother try to talk him out of his depression, but he receives the most encouragement from Julia Sullivan, a waitress who works many of the same receptions Robbie does.  Julia is engaged to a greed-is-good Wall Street trader named Glen Guglia, but as she and Robbie grow closer, she begins to have her doubts. Meanwhile, Robbie wonders if he can make himself over into the kind of man Julia might love.  Things are further complicated by Linda’s return, and the action moves from Jersey to Vegas and back again, as we wait to find out the answer to Linda’s question to Robbie: “Will you sing at my wedding?”

The Wedding Singer features a book by Tim Herlihy (who wrote the original screenplay) and Chad Beguelin, music by Matthew Sklar, and lyrics by Beguelin.  (Sklar and Beguelin also wrote the music and lyrics for the musical version of Elf and the current Broadway hit The Prom.)  After a tryout in Seattle, the show opened at the Al Hirschfeld Theater on Broadway on April 27, 2006, with a cast that included Stephen Lynch as Robbie, Laura Benanti as Julia, and Amy Spanger as Julia’s friend Holly, and ran for 284 performances.  It was nominated for thirteen Tony Awards, and although it didn’t win any, during the broadcast the cast gave a memorable performance of the opening number, “It’s Your Wedding Day.”  The show has since had many productions around the world.

Our production features Samuel James Willis in the title role as Robbie Hart.  The role includes a wide range of vocal styles, from light 80’s pop to rock, and Willis handles them all well. Opposite Willis is Emily Ohmart in the role of Julia Sullivan, a waitress whom Robbie has met at a wedding gig.  Ms. Ohmart has a sweet voice and handles the pop style of her songs masterfully.  Willis’ and Ohmart’s voices blend exceedingly well, and their duets make for some special stage moments.

Willis is joined by Nick Benson and Ken Sprouls as Robbie’s bandmates, Sammy and George.  The two are a hoot together and separately. Marita Landreth portrays Robbie’s fiancée, Linda, who dumps Robbie at the altar.  She’s a piece of work, as is Julia’s cheating fiancé, Glen Guglia, played by Brian YagerJudy Stroh is obviously having fun as Robbie’s all-too-candid grandmother, Rosie.  Tamera Turner is also fun as Julia’s mother, Angie, and Missy Freese is delightful as Julia’s cousin and Sammy’s ex-girlfriend, Holly. 

This production also features a very busy and energetic ensemble which includes Dava Bennett, Kallie Bundy, Darraugh Griffin, Felicia Jiardina, Alexander KnightwrightErica Massillon, Dana Matuszyk, Michelle O’Neall, Alyssa Rainey, Jeff Ready, Mario Silva, and Jackson Thorpe.

Brett Cottone as director and Wendy Baugh as choreographer keep the cast moving at a brisk pace.  Baugh’s choreography will be a special delight to anyone who was a young adult during the 1980’s.  Musical Director Ali Sorenson has the musical numbers well-polished and is getting a marvelous sound from the ensemble. 

Bridgette Richard is producer, Connie Blick is assistant director, and Alan Wilson is the stage manager.  Eli Mundy is the sound designer/engineer, and Dan Virtue is the lighting designer.  Ashleigh Feger is the costumer and is also designing all the 80’s-style hair and make-up.   Michelle Woody is properties master with assistance from Rosie HauckKeizo Osuga is the set designer/master builder with assistance from Nick KilgoreJessa Hendricker and Tiffany Tackett are sharing duties as house manager.

The original movie version of The Wedding Singer received a PG-13 rating.  Although the audience is not deluged with it, the production has some naughty bits and crude language which may make it inappropriate for pre-teens and younger. 

The pay-what-you-can Preview Performance is Thursday, March 7 with regular performances March 8–10, March 15–17, and March 22-24.  As usual, evening performances begin at 7:30 PM with Sunday matinees at 2:30 PM.

by Bob McLaughlin and John Lieder 

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Photos by Bridgette Richard