On Saturday night I had the pleasure of attending Playback Productions’ The Wedding Singer. Based on the Adam Sandler film of the same name, The Wedding Singer boasts an 80s-inspired score and promises to provide audiences with a fun night out. Immediately upon entering the auditorium it was clear that every effort had been made to create an 80s ‘vibe’ – there was an 80s soundtrack playing as entrance music and the audience upon this particular night had even been encouraged to come dressed up.
The show kicked off to a strong start with a lively all-in group number led by Robbie Hart (Lleyton Irwin). It is always difficult in portraying a character made famous by a very distinctive actor, but Irwin did well in making Robbie his own. The choreography was period appropriate and was reminiscent of that in the Broadway show, albeit simplified to accommodate for the cast’s varied skills. The entire cast were decked out in the most deliciously gaudy eighties costumes imaginable, complete with shoulder pads and gigantic hair.
The cast were generally quite experienced and gave memorable performances. Particular standouts we Robbie’s bandmates Sammy and George (Dixon Kaliviotis and Danny Nercessian) who displayed an astounding level of commitment to the full embodiment of their characters and managed to steal every scene they were in, even when they were just in the background. Another highlight was Grace Maddern’s performance as Holly, who shone in her two solo numbers. A skilled dancer, Maddern also choreographed the show and performed her numbers with a seasoned confidence. The ensemble attacked each number with an enthusiasm and gusto that resonated well with the audience and almost overcame the show’s various technical issues.
As Playback Productions are still relatively new to putting on adult musical theatre shows, it was clear from the beginning that the The Wedding Singer would not boast the highest budget. The staging was simple – the need for set changes minimised by the space being sectioned into three different ‘sets’ that were utilised throughout the show. Any set changes that were necessary involved a few props being added or removed from the centre section, which was executed smoothly and without noticeable issues.
A small band played the 80s-inspired score to the show. The band, however, seemed slightly unrehearsed and the cast’s vocals were mixed with the band at such a low level with that many solo lines were either unintelligible or drowned out completely. This was not the only mic-related problem the show suffered from; on the particular show I watched, there was an underlying ‘fuzz’ sound in each scene that was accented each time a principal turned their head. This was, however, the least of the sound team’s problems, as some principal mics started to drop in and out during both dialogue and songs. This was incredibly distracting not only for the audience but for the principals as well, who seemed put off by their voices constantly disappearing and reappearing. The perhaps most jarring event of all was during the number ‘Single’ when all mics cut out completely and there was a ten second bout of loud static. The fact that the performers were able to continue on at all after that was applaudable.
The lighting states were relatively simple, save for a few special strobe effects and the effective use of a disco ball for the party scenes. However, despite the lack of cues, it was clear that more rehearsal was required, with several actors missing their spots and awkwardly sidestepping into them and several lighting cues being missed, resulting in actors trying to walk into their spot but walking onto an entirely dark stage.
Despite some technical shortcomings, The Wedding Singer boasts a generally strong cast with some memorable characters. The ‘party’ vibe of the musical left the audience leaving the theatre with a song in their hearts. Once they have a few more shows’ experience under their belts, Playback Productions will definitely be a company to keep an eye on.