Leeds Grand Theatre – until 26 August 2017
Adapted from the 1998 film The Wedding Singer written by Tim Herlihy and starring Herlihy’s college mate Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, Matthew Sklar (Music) and Chad Beguelin (Lyrics) with a book by Herlihy and Beguelin have concocted a musical that is high on comedy and outrageously catchy.
Set in 1985, The Wedding Singer tells the story of New Jersey wedding singer and rock star wannabe, Robbie Hart, who is the life of the party until his own fiancée Linda leaves him at the altar. Enter Julia, a winsome waitress who wins his affection; however Julia is about to be married to Wall Street shark Glen Gulia. Can Robbie stop the girl of his dreams being lost forever?
I must confess I have never seen the film so this was new territory for me and I loved it. Although this isn’t a juke-box musical, the songs are reminiscent of the period, I was expecting to hear the sounds of the 80’s but this is whole new score with specially written songs which were all lovely bouncy jolly tunes with lyrics that really get in your head and have you singing for days after. It was lovely to hear new songs and not reliant on a back catalogue of old ones.
The relatively young ensemble show off their talent when they all get their individual time to shine with solo’s and dancing and whilst I loath to pick on individuals when everyone is fabulous, bandmates Ashley Emerson’s blokey Sammy and Samuel Holmes’ George are wonderful and Mark Pearce is a definite star especially in the male misery song “Single”. This offers a standout moment as all the boys drown their sorrows in a bar, giving Director Nick Winston’s choreography a chance to shine through.
Charismatic West End star Jon Robyns steals the show as the wedding singer of the title. Onstage for seventeen of the show’s musical numbers, he sings and dances with an easy grace and is instantly likeable as wannabe rocker Robbie Hart, with a nice line in comedy. Helping to mend his jilted heart is waitress Julia, played by Casey Compton, who has a personality as big as her voice. There’s an obvious rapport between them, essential for the success of the show, and they can certainly belt out a song. Glen Gulia played by Ray Quinn more than holds his own, almost stealing the show with his big second-act hymn of praise to the American dollar, “All About the Green”.
Stephanie Clift is Holly, Julia’s cousin who is just a girl wanting to have fun. Dressed in the tiny and bright fashions of the 80’s, she is full of fun and personality, with a massive voice which carries her solo’s well. Described by Grandma Rosie as a ‘skanky whore’, Tara Verloop’s Linda, who dumps Robbie on their wedding day, is hilarious as she puts on a routine worthy of a high class lap-dancer in “Let Me Come Home”. Veteran Ruth Madoc is Robbie’s Grandma Rosie, who, despite her comparatively small role, certainly makes the most of it and gains one of the loudest applause of the evening with her acrobatic skills, who knew she could dance so well!
There were a few technical difficulties on the night, which I am sure will be remedied by now, but it didn’t overly spoil the enjoyment of the show. On a positive note the energy and enthusiasm of the performers can not be faulted. All the elements are there: with a cast as strong as this one, it makes for a cracking show with exuberant energy in this feel-good, romantic movie, live on stage…It’s destined for the West End