Theatre Review: “The Wedding Singer” @ Stage 1 Theatre, 07/23/11

Review written by our new theatre critic: Michael Teger

Not being a fan of Adam Sandler, I was apprehensive about seeing the Stage 1 Theatre Company’s production of The Wedding Singer, a 2006 musical based on his 1998 cinematic valentine to the 80s. Despite my trepidation though, I found the company’s production to be top-notch with an engaging lead, an energetic ensemble, a solid 12 piece orchestra (!) and nicely executed choreography.

The production rests on the capable shoulders of Robert Lopez (Robbie Hart), as the titular wedding band singer, who is dumped at his own wedding. With nary a trace of Sandler-isms, Lopez creates an appealing character. He’s also got a marvelous voice, excelling in the high-energy opener “It’s Your Wedding Day” and the hair-band knock-off, “Casualty of Love” as well as the quieter moments. Lopez has a wonderful stage presence which at times eclipses that of Sharae Honeycutt as Julia, the girl with whom he falls in love. Honeycutt sings nicely (especially in “Pop!” and the duet with Lopez “If I Told You”) but her character just seems one-dimensional.

The real treats lie in the ensemble. Justine Caron-Poirier rocked the house in her comic numbers as Linda, the wedding singer’s dumped girlfriend and then surprised us again with a small yet pivotal performance as fake Tina Turner. Belinda Maloney (Grandma Rosie) was also an audience favorite with her comical “A Note from Grandma” and rap “Move That Thang” – the latter a duet with the Dom DeLuise-esque (and Boy George bewigged) David Irving. And Greg Milholland (with Lopez and ensemble) gets Act 2 off to a scorching start in the Wall Street-themed “All About The Green”. (Also worthy of a shout out are Adrienne Walters as Holly, and Justin Isla and Anthony Oliveras in multiple roles.)

Director John Maio has staged the musical well especially considering the logistics of such a large cast. Kevin Hammond’s choreography was perfect for the show (incorporating familiar moves from many of the ’80s top music videos) and the entire company danced with panache. (Even the cheesy switch-out where Grandma Rosie was all of a sudden ‘bustin’ a move’ worked extremely well.) And to top it all, Audrey Walker’s wigs and costumes were a treasure trove of Members Only jackets, parachute pants, black concert t-shirts and of course, Cyndi Lauper.

Not to say there weren’t problems but they were less with the production and more with the show itself. The book is too long; several songs could easily be dropped (“George’s Prayer”, for one). And as a whole the pastiche pop score, composed from many copped ’80s riffs, is at once unsettling (is this what theater has come to?) yet comfortable (hey, I lived through it and survived). At times the 80s references seemed forced, making the show more like a Beach Blanket Babylon type revue but the audience ate it all up and roared with laughter – which didn’t help when trying to hear what was being said through the Newark Memorial High School Theater’s muted sound system. All in all, it was an evening I’d say was worthy of being called ‘bad’ – and by bad I mean good.

General Admission $22
Senior/Advanced Purchase $20
Students $10 Groups 12+ $18

Performances are July 15th-30th, 2011 Fri-Sat 8pm, Sun 2:30pm
Newark Memorial High School Theatre 39375 Cedar Blvd, Newark.
Tickets are available at www.stage1theatre.org or The Book End in Newark
or by calling 510-791-0287

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3 thoughts on “Theatre Review: “The Wedding Singer” @ Stage 1 Theatre, 07/23/11

  1. I saw the touring production before watching the movie. Didn’t like the movie at all. Loved the show. Although I can see why it didn’t last long on Broadway – I never tire of the soundtrack. It’s a great show – a lot of fun.

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