By Beki Pineda
THE WEDDING SINGER. Book by Chad Beguelin and Tim Herlihy; music by Matthew Sklar; lyrics by Chad Beguelin; directed by Seth Caikowski. Produced by Performance Now Theatre Company (presented at the Lakewood Cultural Center, 470 South Allison Parkway, Lakewood) through June 25. Tickets available at 303-987-7845 or www.performancenow.org.
Among those who enjoy Adam Sandler movies (a somewhat limited group, to be sure), it is generally agreed that the puppy-dog-eyed character he created in Robbie Hart, the wedding singer, was one of the most endearing. Caleb Reed, who recreates the role on this stage, is less puppy dog and a little more real guy caught in his own insecurities and heartbreak. The Drew Barrymore love interest, Julia, is brought to the stage by the fun and feisty Emma Maxwell. The sweet romantic chemistry between these two actors echoes the sentiment that made the movie so successful.
These two leads are ably supported by a rocking Lindsey Falduto as Julia’s best friend and confidante, and Kris Graves as a Boy George clone and member of Robbie’s wedding band. Nick Johnson as Sammie fills out the band, while Matt Wessel plays Julia’s sleazy boyfriend, Glen. Linda, Robbie’s heartbreaking fiancée, is a sultry Shelby Varra. The show-stopping rapping Grandma Rosie comes to hilarious life with the help of Jane Phillips, who channels Rose from the GOLDEN GIRLS in a mashup with Missy Elliott.
This homage to the ’80s pulls out all the stops. If you don’t at least mentally shout “What a feeling!” at the FLASHDANCE image at the end of Act I, you have no claim to the ’80s; it’s just too bad that the music written for this production didn’t produce melodies as memorable as those authentic to the era. While the songs sound vaguely reminiscent and derivative, they don’t linger in the memory as the original music of the era still does.
The cast and crew must perform the script as it is, however, and this cast delivers. Under the sure-handed direction of Seth Caikowski, the show offers balanced amounts of humor and pathos—heartwarming without being hokey. Kelly Van Oosbree’s sure-footed choreography reflects the moves of the moment during the ’80s, performed by a well-rehearsed ensemble. The era-specific clothing also reflects the freewheeling fashionistas of the decade. The six-piece band, playing from a platform on stage, carries through the style and mood of the production.
Just because they could, Matt Wessel drove a DeLorean loaned by Kirk Dugan on stage as the rich and arrogant Glen. Whaaaat!? Audible gasps were heard throughout the audience. What a feeling indeed!
WOW factor: 8.5