Friday, 24 February 2017

The Wedding Singer

There’s much to celebrate in this bittersweet tale of one couple’s haphazard trip to the altar

Written by Robert Gore-Langton

This musical is based on the 1998 film of the same name, starring Adam Sandler as wannabe rock star Robbie, who ends up singing at weddings in the suburbs of New Jersey. Jilted at the altar by his fiancée, he slowly falls for a wedding waitress who is engaged to an uncaring Wall Street dealer.Robert-Gore-Langton-176

I have always felt that Adam Sandler is a gifted but obnoxious performer, exuding insincerity from every pore. One of the oddities of the film is that Drew Barrymore, who simpers sweetly as waitress Julia, would have anything to do with him romantically. But she’s engaged to a cheating junk bond dealer, so taste in men isn’t her strong suit.

The stage show follows the outline, if not the details, of the film. The key thing is the date it’s set in – 1985 – which means a world of shoulder pads, huge phones and men with Miami Vice mullets. It’s impossible not to laugh at the sheer visual awfulness of the era – which is a big part of the fun.

The disappointment for the film’s fans is that in the musical you don’t get – presumably due to copyright problems – the original songs. Unheard are the nostalgic snippets of Culture Club, Bowie and the Smiths. It’s like going to see an ancient band you like and discovering they’re only playing stuff from their new album. I also missed Sandler’s rendition of the angry, suicidal rant Somebody Kill Me – a dose of strychnine in the show’s saccharine – after he is dumped by his fiancée.

But there’s no need to despair. The spirit of the decade is well caught in the score by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin, which conjures up the era’s power ballads plus everything from rap to head-banging rock, performed by an unseen live band.

Cassie Compton is suitably sweet as Julia and Jon Robyns as singer Robbie Hart is her match. Wall Street’s nasty guy (Ray Quinn) leads the anthem All About The Green, thunderingly choreographed by director Nick Winston, which bigs up the 1980s ‘greed is good’ ethic.

Rapping Grandma Rosie is played by Hi-de-Hi!’s Ruth Madoc to a wave of approval from the oldies, while samuel holmes is funny as a Boy George lookalike.

The show gets going in the stronger second half – Billy Idol, Tina Turner, Mr. T, Cyndi Lauper and Ronald Reagan all make Vegas appearances – by which time the audience has really started to have a good time. It’s too cheesily wholesome to be a musical satire. But falling somewhere between Hairspray and Legally Blonde, it certainly has a smile-inducing retro appeal.

On tour throughout the UK until 7 October: 

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