2/23/2019        THE WEDDING SINGER                                 Atlanta Lyric Theatre


***½  ( B ) 



Let's start out with a bias disclaimer:  I hated the 1980's. I spent most of it on the graveyard shift, music and theatre generally sucked (IMHO), I was living a dull thirty-something bachelor life (constant theatre commitments and friends notwithstanding) , and, to make matters worse, Reagan was president. So, I have zero sense of nostalgia for the decade, and any musical that wallows in it will have a steep hill to climb for me.

All this being said, I've enjoyed prior productions of The Wedding Singer, and, based on the cast of this one, I was looking forward to it.  Sure enough, the performances were, as a whole, exciting and energetic, the staging lively, the Tech sufficiently razzle-dazzle (in spite of the usual ALT light tech anachronisms), and I had a (more or less) good time.  Still, the show hasn't aged particularly well, the "villains" are distressingly one-note, and the second act sags with songs that are more "padding" than "plot-moving."  So, let's give this one the top end of the "Meh" response.


Based on the 1998 Adam Sandler, movie, this show is about Robbie Hart, the lead singer in a Jersey band specializing in weddings. When he gets dumped at the altar, he goes into an emotional tailspin until he is "rescued" by Julia Sullivan, a waitress engaged to a Wall Street jerk. The rest of the play is all about how these two get the wrong people out of their lives and the right people in.

The first things to like about this show are the performances of the two leads, the always reliable Chase Peacock (as Robby) and newcomer Rosa K. Campos (as Julia). They are perfectly matched, equally wide-eyed innocent and wounded, and, we can't help but root for them from the moment they meet, atrocious 80's hair notwithstanding.

Other cast members were equally impressive: Audrey Layne Crocker as Julia's wild-and-crazy friend Holly, Alison Brannon Wilhoit as the not-as-shallow-as she usually is Linda, and Sky Passmore and J. Kobe Parker as Robbie's band, Sammy and George.  Maxim Gukhman is the suitably slimy and hissable as Glenn Gulia (yes, if Julia's marriage ever happened, she'd be "Julia Gulia." Ouch!) but not much more.  There was absolutely none of the charm that should have given us an inkling as to what attracted Julia to him in the first place.   And the too-young Katherine Michelle Tanner was brutally miscast as Robbie's Granny, Rosie -- she made the second act "Granny Gets Down" number ("Move That Thang") even more offensively clichéd and degrading than it usually is (and it's always clichéd and degrading). 


One thang to like -- even love --  about the show is the high-wattage choreography (by Ricardo Aponpte). He made the large group numbers amusing without being silly and energetic without being tiring. The show opened with a bang ("It's Your Wedding Day"), and the large cast of dancing singers made it all look easy. As to whether or not the style evokes the '80's themselves, well, since I more-or-less slept through the decade, I have no way of judging.

The set (designed by Lee Shiver-Cerone) was all tacky Variety Show chic with internally lit panels backing everything or rotating to accommodate savagely smooth segues into new scenes.  It was all nicely lit (by Ben Rawson), even the murky "Saturday Night" dance club with its flashy moving lights and keep-your-new-partner-anonymous shadows seemed just right,

So, yes, even though it wallows in '80's nostalgia (shudder), I still found the show a lark and a joy to watch. The first act is especially fun and the show only lags slightly as the second act takes a bit too long to get to its conclusion. The songs are pleasant and bouncy and even (at times) memorable, and, a good time will be had by all!

Even if, like me, you absolutely hated the 1980's.

-- Brad Rudy (BK Rudy@aol.com #ALTWeddingSinger  #80sMustDie)


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