It’s not often that film inspires theatre, and it’s even more uncommon to see it done with such success. Yet Nick Winston’s production of the Broadway adaptation of the hit film ‘The Wedding Singer’ had the audience singing and dancing along by the first dance number.
The play takes the original film and turns it up several notches, bringing jazz hands, bedazzled jackets, and rapping grandmothers for a performance that is over-the-top and knows it. Herein lies the great beauty of musical comedy – if you take it too seriously, you miss the point.
The musical revolves around the troubles of Robbie Hart (Jon Robyns), frontman of a wedding band and hopeless romantic. When his fiancée Linda (Tara Verloop) leaves him at the altar, he’s left disillusioned and cynical, botching gig after gig until he falls for Julia (Cassie Compton), who is engaged to the unsavoury Glen (Ray Quinn). Overdone rom-com clichés follow, accompanied by riotous musical numbers, and yet it works. The overall effect is a romantic parody, where every character is a caricature, but somehow it convinces the audience to play along and root for Robbie and Julia.
Robyns and Compton are cast as the ideal couple that the audience supports, and while I do somewhat disagree with the notion of persuading a woman to leave her fiancé, Quinn was cast as the egotistical, philandering Wall Street man that the audience just loves to hate.
The actors had incredibly strong voices, making the love-songs even lovelier, and the more hilarious songs – such as ‘Somebody Kill Me’ or ‘Come Out of the Dumpster’ – all the more hysterical. Alongside the seamless dance numbers, this made for an engaging and dynamic performance.
In terms of design, the play is performed on a relatively bare set that informs us of the context of a scene through the use of pieces such as a kitchenette, a set of stairs, or a block of toilet stalls. Though their 80s-pop colouring was surely meant to be the centre of attention, the set pieces really stood out thanks to their constant malfunctioning, making for awkward laughter as a picnic table slid halfway across the stage and bumped into an actor.
Perhaps the only criticism that can be made of this musical is its tendency to veer from parody and into vulgarity. Quinn’s song ‘All About the Green’ culminates in an overt sexual innuendo on the ‘services’ that female employees are expected to provide to their superiors in order to succeed; an explicit scene between Robyns and Verloop is intended as comic effect but only succeeds in making the audience slightly uncomfortable.
Yet overall, with its toe-tapping original score, its smooth choreography, and delightfully self-deprecating comedy, this is the definition of a feel-good musical. Its cheesiness and tendency for cliché remind us that ‘The Wedding Singer’ practically invented the tropes of the rom-com. From the love triangle, to the staged kiss, to the balcony serenade, it’s as cheesy as they come, and yet it works. This is one musical that must not be missed.
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