A fun-filled, comedic musical with some choice one liners, crowd-pleasing scenes and ear-pleasing songs, The Wedding Singer is a spirit lifter. The path to true love is littered with casualties. That single line probably best describes the theme running through The Wedding Singer, which is based on the Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore hit movie, released in 1998.
The year is 1985 and the place, New York. Robbie Hart (Christian Charisiou) is a wedding singer. He warbles tunes on the big day with his two buddies, bass guitarist Sammy (Haydan Hawkins) and keyboard player George (Ed Deganos). They dream of the band making it big on the music scene. Robbie has been in a relationship with Linda (Kirby Burgess) for seven years and their own nuptials are just around the corner.
At a regular wedding venue where the group plays, Robbie meets waitress Julia Sullivan (Teagan Wouters) who is anxiously waiting for her highflier stock trader boyfriend Glen Guglia (Stephen Mahy) to pop the question. Thereafter, she even helps out Robbie with lyrics to the song he is penning for his fiancé, which – as it stands – has several particularly grating lines. Julia also extracts from Robbie a promise to sing at her wedding.
Julia’s bff and fellow waitress Holly (Nadia Komazec) encourages her relationship with Glen and with it the financial security it will bring. But the tide is turning. Robbie, who lives in his grandmother Rosie’s (Susan-Ann Walker) basement (his parents have passed on), is left in the depths of despair on his wedding day. That is even though his thoughtful granny has invested in a new super-duper vibrating bed for him and his intended bride. Linda stands him up, telling him it is time she moved on.
Let’s just say the next gig at which Robbie plays becomes an unmitigated disaster, which sees him end up in a dumpster. Julia rescues him and later even manages to convince him to go wedding shopping with her. That is when something special goes down. It is clear that the spark between Robbie and Julia is growing ever stronger, while the supercilious Glen continues to show what a bounder he is. More twists await and hijinks abound.
The music is by Matthew Skylar, lyrics from Chad Beguelin and book by Beguelin and Tim Herlihy (who wrote the original film). It took me a little time to warm to what I was seeing, but once I did, I went with it and really enjoyed myself. The characters and characterisations have been designed to be over the top and they’re played accordingly. Excess is what this production is all about, for the narrative arc is transparent. In other words, we know very early on just where this is going, but the bumpy ride is the payoff.
All the leads have their time to shine and that they do, milking the script for all it is worth. Tegan Wouters is pleasant, amiable and nerdish as Julia. She is also strong vocally. Christian Charisiou is at his best as the vituperative version of Robbie. Stephen Mahy is suitably aloof and creepy as Glen. Kirby Burgess is a scene stealer … a real showstopper, not once, but twice as Linda. Hers is a supremely confident and polished display, which screams “look at me”.
Susan-Ann Walker has spunk and sass as Robbie’s indefatigable grandmother, who amusingly gives away far too much information about her sex life. Ed Deganos plays up the role of the sensitive gay guy and band member George. For his part, Haydan Hawkins brings a duality of personas to his representation of Sammy, the third band member, who has a thrust and parry relationship with Holly. Speaking of the latter, Nadia Komazec commands attention as Julia’s “rather loose” gal pal.
The choreographed dance numbers are slick and energising. A particular highlight is Charisiou and the bar tender preparing cocktails in sync. Also watch for the appearance of “copycat” entertainers such as Gene Simmons, Dolly Parton, Cher and many more as the musical draws to its conclusion. That’s a hoot, as is much of the show, which features a 20-person cast. The sets are relatively straightforward – a faux brick city skyline backdrop and giant heart with illuminated words “Simply Wed” are prominent through much of The Wedding Singer: The Musical Comedy.
It is good, old fashioned, light-hearted entertainment designed to put a smile on your dial. Directed by Alister Smith, choreographed by Michael Ralph, with musical direction from Daniel Puckey, it is playing at the Athenaeum Theatre until 5th June, 2021.
Other reviews you might enjoy:
- The ABBA Show (Athenaeum) – theatre review
- Calendar Girls (Prince Moo) – theatre review
- The Haunting (Athenaeum) – theatre review
Alex First is a Melbourne based journalist and communications specialist. He contributes to The Blurb on film and theatre.