REVIEW: Wedding Singer the Musical at Performance Now
by Noah Lee Jordan
Shortly after the final bows of Performance Now Theatre Company’s production of The Wedding Singer, I found myself lingering around in a nearly empty theatre. Most of the patrons had shuffled out of the aisles and congregated into the lobby for the traditional post show congratulations that nearly always occur in local theatre productions. Only about a handful stuck around to take $5 pictures with the Dolorean pulled up on stage. And yes, there was a Dolorean on the stage.
But as I stood there trying to come up with exact wording to describe what I’d just witnessed, I realized that I found the experience both amusing enough and also slightly underwhelming … while it lasted. And I will continue this by saying, mine will probably be one of the first (potentially only) dissenting opinions of this show, but to be quite honest I’m okay with that. And while I don’t think this particular production was “terrible,” maybe I was just happened to attend the “phone it in Friday” performance. Either way I wasn’t too smitten thinking about the show on my drive home.
This big and high energy musical comedy – which features a book by Chad Beguelin and Tim Herlihy, and music and lyrics by Matthew Sklar and Beguelin – doesn’t quite hit its mark on the Performance Now stage. Even though director Seth Caikowski, choreographer Kelly Van Oosbree, and music director Jason Tyler Vaughn do a great job of laying the foundation for a potentially great show … perhaps something fell a bit short in the process. Emma Maxfield plays the loveable and awkward role of Julia, and she does it quite well. And Caleb Reed captures the charming and yet sarcastic side of Robbie Hart throughout the show. Outside of those two … Shelby Varra as Linda, Jane Phillips as Rosie, and the entire ensemble manage to do what the can to keep us entertained for the duration of the show; however, aside from that the other “primary players” simply didn’t quite rise to the occasion and weren’t necessarily believable in their respective roles. I won’t go into too many details, so you can form your own opinion if you choose to see it.
The show immediately starts with a bang. “It’s Your Wedding Day” is rises (literally rises) from the ground and is choked full of energy. There’s flips, there’s turns, there’s classic 80s dance moves. It’s a swing and most certainly a home run. So as the first act continued and we geared up for an amazing act one closing number, “Saturday Night in the City,” I was fairly disappointed, and in the end it was met with only a “meh” of applause in comparison to the opening number. The signature Flash Dance surprise in this particular production was merely a small bucket of water, awkwardly dumped by a fellow cast member from a higher portion of the set. If you blinked, I can almost promise you would’ve missed it. But if you did see it, it might have been better to just blink.
Act two began with probably the best and cleanest number of the entire show, “All About the Green,” which in my opinion on paper certainly shouldn’t be considering the amount of other stand out numbers that could be in this show. However, this particular number is where the choreography felt the most intact. The movements had to be sharp, and there wasn’t any margin for error. Bravo, ensemble cast. Bravo! From there we trudged along through another few numbers of cheese and love, that respectively seemed to fall a little flat until at last the show approached its by all means predictable finale. It’s fun, energetic, and we were back to where we started with a rousing mix of “It’s Your Wedding Day” and “If I Told You.” It’s a solid ending to show, and easily reminds you that theatre at the end of the day is supposed to be fun.
At the end of the day, it’s no doubt that Performance Now probably had high hopes for this production of The Wedding Singer especially given the powerhouse production team they had in Caikowski, Oosbree, and Vaughn, but ultimately it might have been best if they had just left this back in the late 80s right next to New Coke.
THE WEDDING SINGER book by Chad Beguelin and Tim Herlihy featuring music and lyrics by Matthew Skylar and Chad Beguelin, and directed by Seth Caikowski plays now through June 25th.
Performance Now Theatre Company, Lakewood Cultural Center, 480 S. Allison Pkwy. Lakewood. PerformanceNow.org