This week saw much criticism for the work of American funny-man, Adam Sandler. While his most recent films have become somewhat of a farce, this negative response allows us the opportunity to reflect on some of his funniest and most well-received flicks, including the ever-hilarious, The Wedding Singer. Adapted for the stage by much of the same team that brought it to the screen, The Wedding Singer features an original score with a book that is quite reflective of the movie’s famous one-liners. While the content is not all too ground breaking, the show is certainly a bit of tacky 80s fun. Aspect Theatre have done well to showcase the heart of the piece and, while the overall production quality may not have been trailblazing, it was refreshing to see a cast truly enjoying their time on stage.
Upon walking into the theatre, the audience was met with a playlist of 80s hits to get in the mood, many of which that were recognisable from the movie soundtrack. It was great to see some of the audience really getting into the spirit and singing along, emphasising the connection to the 80s that so many people still hold dear.
The set was very quaint, mostly consisting of some bold coloured shapes and a few moveable set pieces. Unfortunately, the majority of the set changes were poorly executed with the stage left black for uncomfortable amounts of time (at some points, this occurred in silence with the music having stopped or never having continued on). This became quite arduous to witness and certainly broke the connection between the audience and the story that was unfolding. It is anticipated that this issue will be ironed out for the remaining performances.
The lighting was simple and, for the most part, did well to set the appropriate mood. There were several cues that seemed quite slow, particularly at a point when Robbie was depressed on his bed and would move positions as the lights went on and off – a great idea in theory that perhaps needed a little more work with timing for an effective execution.
The direction and choreography were simple and worked well in conjunction with one another to present a relatively authentic 80s vibe, as did the musical direction which was generally well-received. At times, it felt as if the staging was a little cluttered, with pulled focus. This was mostly when the cast as a whole were on stage together. Transitions between scenes and the overall pace did feel a little slow and appeared to work against the strengthening of relationships between the audience and the characters, but also between the characters themselves. That’s not to say that interactions between all cast were arduous, in fact there were definite moments of excellent sweetness, fragility, humour and solidarity that were a true joy to experience.
Aidan Prewett presented a Robbie Hart that was just enough Sandler to please fans of the movie. While his performance was not entirely consistent, Prewett certainly came into his own as the production progressed, providing moments of well executed comedic timing. His place as the figurehead of a 80s band was rather convincing.
As the relatively carefree sidekick to Robbie, James Dale’s Sammy was quite an engaging addition, serving as very animated throughout the piece. While his vocals did seem to suffer from fatigue, the strength in Dale’s performance was in his seemingly random dance talent that would be unveiled every now and then and became a crowd favourite.
Stuart Anderson was everything you come to expect of George – the look, the demeanour, the smallest nuances. Anderson certainly showed a strong commitment to the role. Equally as impressive was the performance of Ash Cooper, whose Glen Gulia had been created and enacted in such a way that the audience could help to love to hate him, which is perhaps always the goal of the villain. His creepy charm and brilliant tenacity was a great hit.
Amber Krause, who played waitress Holly, provided some pretty impressive vocals that certainly proved to be a highlight. Her energy was also well received.
The standout performance of this production comes from Amy Gridley as Julia Sullivan. Gridley’s sweet, yet headstrong demeanour, coupled with her supreme vocal talent and very natural style of acting was just what the role called for. Her ability to connect with every other individual on the stage with her is a true credit to her professionalism and commitment to her craft.
In support of these performers, the ensemble of the piece, in their various roles, did well to embody the 80s flare and promote authenticity of the piece. While energy was not always consistent, it most definitely appeared as though each and every performer was genuinely loving their time on stage, which certainly rubbed off on the audience.
If you’re a fan of the movie, you’ll certainly want to see it up on stage. Everyone loves a good 80s themed party, and the show certainly caters to that.