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The Wedding Singer: The Musical
by Don and Peg Doman
David Armstrong is right: “The death of the Musical is greatly exaggerated.” The American musical is alive and well as witnessed by The Wedding Singer at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre. This remake into a musical of the Adam Sandler movie is an improvement in my book because it has more music and it has dancing. I’m a sucker for anything with singing and dancing in it.
Set in 1985, the play is filled with ‘80s jokes and allusions. One of my favorite dance scenes was the chorus using “Thriller” choreography.
The actors all have extensive Broadway experience and it shows. In fact, Rita Gardner who plays Rosie, Robbie’s grandmother, is the original girl in the Fantastics. I first saw the Fantastics when I was in high school, and we all know that was 150 years ago!
Anyone who’s seen the movie knows the story: Robbie Hart (Stephen Lynch) is a wedding singer, talented at what he does and happy in his four piece band with Sammy (Matthew Saldivar) on guitar, George on keyboards (Kevin Cahoon) and Big Lou on drums. Robbie and Linda (Felicia Finley) are getting married soon and Robbie is ecstatic.
At the first wedding we see, Robbie defuses the drunken brother-in-law/best man’s speech (horribly inappropriate and rude) and keeps the reception on track.
At this reception, we meet the waitresses Holly (Amy Spanger), on-again, off-again girlfriend of band member Sammy, and Julia (Laura Benanti), engaged to jerky and only occasionally monogamous Glen Guglia (Richard H. Blake), a rich stock broker. Holly and Julia are at all the receptions; they are waitresses at the reception hall.
At the next wedding, Robbie and Linda’s, her mom shows up with a note for Robbie. Mom gives it to Sammy to give to Robbie, waiting at the altar. Sammy explains it bluntly to the audience, “The bitch ain’t comin’.” She’s not coming and Robbie’s devastated.
The next weekend, he and the band have another reception gig but he’s so depressed and cynical, he turns the reception into chaos and the wedding party throws him into the dumpster.
After he’s pitched into the dumpster, Robbie and Julia get to know each other a little better, the beginnings of love.
Glen Guglia (Julia Guglia?) has a DeLorean, the dream car of the ‘80s, which he drives onto the corner of the stage. He has all the trappings of wealth: nice power suits and ties, slick hair, an early cell phone with a ten pound battery, and arrogance.
The opening number of Act Two is set at Glen’s office, complete with desks and computers and everyone dressed in grey suits and pastel shirts and ties, even the women. Glen is the only one in dark grey pinstripe suit with a red striped tie. The stockbrokers belt out “All about the Green” in an impressive performance of exquisite timing, office chairs, desks and energy.
Scott Pask’s sets are great. The reception hall has the stage and tables and chairs and is used in several scenes with the décor changed to reflect the weddings’ color themes.
There are set-lets, small sets that coast on and off to show Robbie’s basement bedroom (complete with hot water heater and big-hair band posters), Julia’s dormer bedroom (reversible so we see Robbie watching her from the yard), a revolving restaurant and a loading dock with the famous dumpster.
Robbie's basement apartment is the location of a hot seduction scene by Linda as she trys to win Robbie back. There is steam from the hot water heater and she uses the copper overflow pipe as a stripper's pole. I start sweating just thinking about the routine.
The funniest set, aside from the airplane cabins, was the White House Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas. It’s decorated with presidential portraits and an organ. A fake Ronald Reagan is the minister and a fake Nancy Regan is the organist. There are more ‘80s icon fakes: Billy Idol, Mr. T, Cyndi Lauper, Tina Turner and even an Imelda Marcos, complete with shoe box. Apparently Las Vegas is full of impersonators.
Gregory Gales’s costumes are so “totally awesome”: short skirts, high-heeled ankle boots, cropped and decorated jeans jackets, the bridesmaids’ and the wedding dresses. I really enjoyed the bridesmaids’ dresses. There is no way you can over goopy bridesmaids’ dresses.
The music by Matthew Sklar and lyrics by Chad Beguelin was wonderful. My only disappointment was that there hasn’t been a cast recording yet. I imagine that’s because the play is changing as it goes through try outs on its way to Broadway. It opens on Broadway in March.