by Beki Pineda

THE WEDDING SINGER – Book by Chad Beguelin and Tim Herlihy; Music by Matthew Sklar; Lyrics by Chad Beguilin; Directed by Ashley Ellen Frary. Produced by Evergreen Players (CentreStage Theatre, 27608 Fireweed Drive, Evergreen) through August 4. Tickets available at 303-674-4934 or evergreenplayers.org.

I so enjoy going up the hill to visit Evergreen Players every once and awhile. It’s lovely to get out of the city on a hot summer evening and drive into the green coolness that lies over the hill. When you include Evergreen Players in your plans, you see a shining example of what real community theatre looks like. The same family names appear over and over again in the programs as parents surrender their places on stage to their children. The diversity of their community allows them to cast age appropriate. When the script calls for a Grandma, there’s a talented older woman available. Same with children. These kids have been attending rehearsals with their parents since infancy, so when a kid is called for, there are plenty available. WEDDING SINGER is no exception. While most of the cast is people of the marrying age, Robby, the wedding singer, lives with his Grandma Rosie. The talented Lisa Cole filled the shoes of the rapping Grandma. It’s just fun to watch them all playing together.

The musical is, of course, based on the Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore movie from 1998 set in 1985 New Jersey (read big hair and taffeta bridesmaid dresses). The musical retains the sweetness and nostalgia of the movie while lightening the load of cheesiness. This script takes a very short throw-away scene from the movie with Robbie in a dumpster after he gets in a fight at a wedding and turns it into one of the sweetest scenes of the show. Instead of taking place on the plane going to Vegas, in the musical, the ending was set in the Chapel of Love in Las Vegas with Ronald Reagan. Joan Jett, Imelda Marcos and Billy Idol (retained from the movie) impersonators present. But, for the most part, the musical is faithful to the movie. This means it’s a feel-good rom-com all the way.

Led by Andy Seracuse as winsome Robby Hart, the show starts off with a rousing wedding scene whose costumes and hair styles place it solidly in the era. Taylor Hadra channels Drew Barrymore’s wistful demeanor and way of speaking. It took her a little while to get wound up on opening night, but by the middle of Act One, she was in full voice and powerful. Robbie’s fellow band members are played by Jeremiah Martinez as an over-the-top Jersey Boy – think Situation in his 40’s – and Thomas Gerlick as a Boy George wannabe. Linda, the “skanky wh—,” who stood Robbie up on their wedding day is given sleazy life by Kimberly Matthews, matched only by the #MeToo defying Glen, Julia’s slimy fiancé, played by Jimmy Luthye. All of these are backed up by a dance ensemble of twelve laying it all on the line for each number.

The stage hands and cast members had obviously rehearsed the scene changes as much as the musical numbers as they happened with speed and efficiency, a must when there are multiple sets in a small theatre. The six piece band kept the music going between scenes to make the changes fun to watch and provided a solid background for all the musical numbers. Additionally they served as a warm up getting the audience in the right mood before the show by playing sing-along oldies. The costumes – including at least three wedding dresses and multiple sets of colored tuxedos!! – were bright and shiny and kept the story in the 80’s without a word being said. The set – obviously a collaboration between builder Biz Schauguard and Director Ashley Ellen Frary – was simple, mobile, and got the job done.

Treat yourself to a short trip into the foothills for a dinner and show in Evergreen on one of these cool summer evenings. You won’t regret it.

A WOW factor of 8!!