You know those viral wedding videos in which the bridal party members perform choreographed dance moves on their way down aisle? They should give you some idea of what to expect from The Wedding Singer. ---
This week, Pages & Stages went out to Greer Garson Theatre to see Santa Fe University of Art and Design's The Wedding Singer, a musical theater adaptation of the 1998 film of the same name. And now, having come out the other end, I have just two words that really sum up the experience: "'80s hair." And, like '80s hair, everything in the play is a little over-the-top; the costumes are colorful, the furnishings are glitzy and the show is, well, showy.
The Wedding Singer tells the story of Robbie Hart (Tiernan O'Rourke)—not to be confused with a certain Roxie Hart from that other musical—the titular wedding singer whose fiancée leaves him at the alter, decidedly ruining is life forever.
So Robbie thinks, jaded and heartbroken, as he decries love and everything it represents, including, not surprisingly, weddings. But a budding relationship with Julia Sullivan (Corinne Sharlet), a waitress for the club at which Robbie's band regularly performs, changes his mind, and the rumpus and raucous of romcom post-cinema values—not to mention Julia's winning personality and, erm, '80s hair—gradually overcome Robbie's malaise.
The original film roles belong to Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, and I confess to having had some concern, going in, that student performers would expend too much effort trying to imitate such big-name actors instead of trying to find their own fits for the roles. Thankfully, that turned out not to be the case. O'Rourke and Sharlet aren't really stand-ins for Sandler and Barrymore, nor should they be. If you're a fan of the film, don't go into the play expecting to see the characters on stage as they were on screen. These are a different Robbie and Julia than you're used to—different, but not worse. O'Rourke's voice is a bit wobbly, but it suits the image of Robbie as a struggling performer who gave up on his dreams of being a rock star, and O'Rourke plays up the bed-headed sheepishness admirably.
The supporting cast does a wonderful job. A rotating chorus of singers and dancers keeps each scene lively and fresh, with more crazy '80s haircuts and costumes, and Robbie's energetic grandmother Rosie (Katherine Kuntz) and exuberant bandmate George (Justin Barbee) really steal the show. Lindsey Mackin plays Julia's free-spirited sister Holly; and Julien Seredowych fills the shoes of Julia's sleazy fiancé, Glen, although Seredowych doesn't always seem comfortable in the role.
Some opening-night technical difficulties (I blame the persnickety lavalier microphones) cut into the fidelity a bit but, hopefully, those will all be sorted out. Overall, The Wedding Singer is lively and full of charm, and some inventive staging and strong performances give it a life of its own independent of its Hollywood roots—and its '80s hair.