Friday, May 7, 2010

The Wedding Singer: The Musical

I reviewed Fighting Chance's The Wedding Singer for WE this week. The company is great, but they don't have much to work with in this film-to-stage adaptation.

Enthusiasm and camp almost make up for a lacklustre score and book in Fighting Chance Production’s The Wedding Singer: The Musical.

Enthusiasm and camp almost make up for a lacklustre score and book in Fighting Chance Production’s The Wedding Singer: The Musical.

Credit: Supplied

‘Wedding Singer’ hits too many false notes

Impressed or not by ‘80s-send-up comedy The Wedding Singer, no one walked away from the 1998 Adam Sandler-Drew Barrymore flick thinking, “You know, that movie would make an awesome musical!” No one, that is, except Matthew Sklar, Chad Beguelin, and Tim Herlihy, the misguided minds behind the too-faithful, too-literal stage adaptation that opened and closed on Broadway in 2006, after a six-month run.

The premise has promise. But unlike the sweetly inoffensive film, the musical doesn’t deliver, no matter how heavily it borrows from the source. The Wedding Singer: The Musical, like the movie, is a romantic comedy steeped in the stereotypes, fashion, and frivolity of the 1980s. And it, too, focuses on titular wedding singer Robbie Hart, a romantic who’s left a broken, seething mess after his girlfriend leaves him at the altar. At the banquet hall where his band performs, Robbie soon realizes Julia, a waitress, is a kindred spirit, albeit one with the misfortune of being engaged to Glen Guglia, a stockbroker with a secret penchant for coke and strippers. Of course, Robbie and Julia should be together.

In the movie, the lovebirds wind their way toward a sweet, Billy Idol-aided happy ending in a smooth 90 minutes. Unfortunately, the two-hours-plus musical odyssey unwisely expands supporting roles, fleshes out Robbie’s walk on the Wall Street side, and pushes the final curtain back at least 10 minutes too far.

Even when working with lesser material such as this, though (and battling mic problems that will hopefully be addressed in subsequent performances), the young, vibrant minds at Fighting Chance Productions — so good with last year’s Rent and Forbidden Broadway — infuse the cramped stage with genuine, joyful energy. The enthusiasm and talent of the company is undeniable, as evinced by the production’s male lead, the delightful Andrew Halliwell. Lexy Campbell has a more difficult job with Julia (written as one-dimensional and too sickly sweet), but her voice blends beautifully with Halliwell’s on the romance-denouncing “It’s Not that Kind of Thing.”

Two of the best songs in the show, “Grow Old with You” and “Somebody Kill Me,” appeared in the original film, and were co-written by Sandler himself. But even an avowed Sandler fan (yep, I’m one) doesn’t necessarily want an entire musical hinging on those compositions. Had the writers taken the charm of those two songs and created a book and lyrics equally as engaging, then Fighting Chance Productions would have really had something to sing about.

The Wedding Singer: The Musical runs to May 22 at Jericho Arts Centre (1675 Discovery), 8pm. Tickets $25-$30 from 604-224-8007 and

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