4.5 stars

Ahhh, the 80’s – big permed hair, big puffy sleeves on taffeta dresses and weddings. Lots and lots of weddings. At least, that was my experience of the 80’s. I was married in the 80’s. My friends were married in the 80’s. And so the 80’s was very much the decade of weddings. As a result, The Wedding Singer film, starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, has always struck a nostalgic chord. But, I have to admit, I really didn’t know what to expect from a musical adaptation of the film and I was surprised that it had been nominated for a Tony Award for Best Musical. Suffice to say, the opening night blew me away.

Unlike the film, the musical of The Wedding Singer has newly written material, with the book by Chad Beguelin and Tim Herlihy, music by Matthew Sklar and lyrics by Chad Beguelin – and and it works incredibly well. Well-loved 80’s music was played prior to the commencement of the show, and throughout interval, which set the era and created somewhat of a party atmosphere before the show had even started. But the real success of this production by David Venn Entereprises is in the choice of cast and creatives.

The show opens with a high energy wedding number that sets the tone and doesn’t let off until the final bow. After a successful season in Adelaide, the cast seemed very at ease in their roles and the show flowed seamlessly.

Christian Charisiou is perfectly cast as leading man Robbie Hart – the role made famous by Adam Sandler. He is vocally strong and has brilliant comedic timing. Charisiou brings an endearing charm that immediately connects him to the audience.

Playing opposite Charisiou is Teagan Wouters as Julia – the role portrayed by Drew Barrymore in the film. Wouters brings a beautiful sweetness and innocence to the role. Charisiou and Wouters create a believable onstage chemistry.

While Charisiou and Wouters play the love interests, the supporting cast also have their moments to not only shine, but often steal the show!

Stephen Mahy is thoroughly convincing as the obnoxious and self-absorbed Glen.

Nadia Komazec dazzles as Holly – once again proving she really is a true triple threat. Komazec is sexy, sassy and closes out act one with a homage to Flashdance that had the audience cheering loudly. It’s a moment that’s not needed in propelling the storyline, and yet, is such an over-the-top highlight it works surprisingly well!

Ed Deganos won the audience over from the moment he strutted out on stage, oozing charisma in the role of keyboardist George. And Hayden Hawkins was fabulous as the final member of the wedding band “Simply Wed”.

Susan-Ann Walker is delightfully cheeky as Rosie. Kirby Burgess sizzles as Linda. Her first appearance was so stunning, the audience cheered loudly the moment her character returned later in the show.

Costume designer Kim Bishop has nailed the 80’s look –  from the puffy sleeves of the taffeta bridesmaid dresses and the lace covered puffy sleeved wedding dress to the baggy jeans with the asymmetrical zip, the pinstripe suits, the padded shoulders, to the power suit with the stilettos. It was like opening up an old photo album and reminiscing over favourite outfits. I’m pretty sure I owned some of those clothes!

 

Michael Ralph’s stunning choreography is skilfully executed by the incredibly strong ensemble cast and the music is brought to life under the musical direction of Daniel Puckey. Set design by Nathan Weyers and lighting design by Declan O’Neill are effective to enhance the story.

What works so incredibly effectively in this production is the excess – and not just the hair or the puffy sleeves. The high energy and enthusiasm coming from the stage is palpable. This musical works because it is so over the top. Director Alister Smith has delivered an outstanding production, which despite it’s high energy and over the top performances, still delivers the warmth and heart of this romantic comedy. It’s almost impossible not to walk out of The Wedding Singer with a huge smile on your face and a feeling that you’ve just had a great night out. The Wedding Singer is high energy entertainment.

The storyline varies slightly from the film – and the climax of the musical is hilarious. I won’t give anything away, but even die-hard fans of the film will love this variation. If you’re a fan of The Wedding Singer you won’t be disappointed by the musical adaptation. If you’re not a fan of the film, you’ll be pleasantly surprised! The Wedding Singer exceeded all my expectations.

 

 

The Wedding Singer is now playing at the Athenaeum Theatre in Melbourne’s East End Theatre District until Saturday 5th June.

For more details https://weddingsingermusical.com.au/

 

Photo credit: Nicole Cleary

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