Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Wedding Singer

When it comes to musicals, I definitely have a weakness for pop scores like Wicked and Hairspray. I've been listening to the Broadway cast CD of The Wedding Singer for months now, and the Tony-nominated score seemed to have some of the same quality, so I was really looking forward to seeing the show on tour. I finally had a chance last weekend.

The story pretty much parallels the 1998 movie with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. (And it's just about the only Adam Sandler movie I can stomach). Robbie Hart is the New Jersey wedding singer whose fiancee dumps him at the altar. He falls in love with a waitress named Julia Sullivan, who dreams of having her own storybook wedding, if her fiance would only pick a date. She's engaged to a hard-charging, obnoxious Wall Street type named Glen who doesn't pay enough attention to her and pretty much takes her for granted.

The musical does a good job of capturing the 1980s with a sense of humor - there's big hair and pastels, cell phones with giant battery packs. New Coke is touted as the next big thing, and the idea that anyone would pay $3 for a cup of coffee is dismissed as total lunacy.

The music, composed by Matthew Sklar, is incredibly catchy. Chad Beguelin who coauthored the book with Tim Herlihy, has written some very witty lyrics, especially in songs like "It's All About the Green" and "It's Your Wedding Day." And I loved, absolutely loved, the bar mitzvah numbers - "Today You Are A Man," and "George's Prayer."

It was great to finally see the songs performed live that I'd been listening to on my iPod for so long. I'm just sorry that one of my favorites - "Pop," didn't make it on tour. And the cast seemed to rush through some of the tunes that I remember being sung at a slightly more leisurely pace on the CD.

One thing you don't get by listening, of course, is seeing how the songs are staged. I'm not sure how much of Rob Ashford's Tony-nominated work choreographer Chris Bailey used in the tour, but it was terrific. Every song had its own distinct style, and they were all pretty exciting. "Saturday Night in the City" was suitably raunchy, and "It's All About the Green" had more of a traditional Broadway, button-down feel that you'd expect in well, a Wall Street office.

After Curtains, this is the second Rob Ashford show I've seen, and I think I'm becoming a fan. I can't wait to see what he does with Cry-Baby, which begins previews on Broadway next month. (If you count Kevin Spacey's dancing in the Bobby Darin biopic Beyond the Sea, it's actually the third).

Unfortunately, Merritt David Janes' portrayal of Robbie was a little bit of a weak link in the cast. He tried hard, and he's likable enough, but he just left me feeling kind of blah. Robbie should be charming in a goofy kind of way. But to me, Janes didn't exude much charm. It was a little hard to see why Julia, played by Erin Elizabeth Coors, was attracted to him to the point where she'd give up the comfort and security she'd have with the upwardly mobile Glen.

Robbie's bandmates, Sammy (played by Rhode Islander Justin Jutras as a rough-edged Joisy boy with "Flock of Seagulls hair") and George (John Jacob Lee, sweetly channeling Boy George) were hilarious. Coors was good as the young woman who wants so much to get married, she overlooks some of her fiance's more irritating qualities. I liked her voice, too. And Mark Raumaker as Glen was perfectly self-absorbed and arrogant.

The Wedding Singer opened on Broadway on April 27, 2006 at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre and ran for 285 performances, closing on Dec. 31. It was nominated for five Tony awards, including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score, Best Choreography and Best Actor in a Musical (Stephen Lynch as Robbie). The touring production runs through June 22.

After months of listening to the music, I think The Wedding Singer did a pretty good job of living up to my expectations. The songs are great, the choreography is wonderful, and there are some truly witty characters and moments. While it might not have the emotional depth of Wicked or Hairspray, it's a very fun show.


Anonymous said...

I recently watched the musical done by SOTA High School in SF and I loved it! Yes, the songs are catchy. I want to buy the cd because the songs are just great. Hmm, now that you mentioned it, I want to watch Wicked now.


Esther said...

Thanks so much for the comment Erina! I didn't realize The Wedding Singer was being done by high schools, but I think that's great. It's such a fun show and I do love the music. The lyrics are very clever. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I think Wicked is in San Francisco now, right? You should definitely go see it if you haven't already. It's one of my absolute favorites. And San Francisco is one of my favorite cities!