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The Wedding Singer (Susan Elkin reviews)

The Wedding Singer
Book by Chad Beguelin & Tim Herlihy. Music by Matthew Sklar. Lyrics by Chad Begeilin.
society/company: GDS Productions
performance date: 17 Oct 2019
venue: Central Theatre, 170 High Street, Chatham, Kent ME4 4AS

The titular Wedding Singer, Robbie Hart (James Alexander Stacey), makes his living from entertaining wedding guests but, jilted at the altar, his own love life is in disarray. It is fairly obvious almost from the first number that Julia Sullivan (Rachael Heard) is the one to watch. Based on a 1998 film, it’s basically just that weary old plot about everyone settling down and marrying the right person as in Twelfth NightThe Magic Flute, HMS PInafore and many thousands of other narratives.

Heard delights as the attractively sweet but strong Julia. Her singing soars, her intonation is impeccable and she acts with total conviction. Stacey is more than competent especially in his deliberately silly numbers when his character is sending up both himself and his profession. The two work well together, moreover, and there are some well sung duets.

Carly Caller, who has a fine “full belt” when she needs it, is feisty and witty as Holly. Tonia Plowman has, and is, fun as Grandma Rosie especially in her rap number.

Although I think this piece, with its mostly samey music and songs which don’t add much, is weak and in many ways not a good choice (it attracted a pretty sparse audience on the opening night when I saw it) there are advantages for a large amateur company in a show which is predicated on a series of weddings and other parties. It means that there is plenty for the ensemble to do and scope to use people of all ages, sizes and shapes: wedding guests just as they are in real life. And I like that inclusiveness.

The ensemble is well directed too. Rachel Ann-Crane Herbert knows how to use every cast member to pleasing effect although the scene changes could be slicker. There is too much reliance on traditional stage hands when it would often be smoother and more seamless simply to get cast members to bring items on with them as they come. Choreography (by Emma Constantine and Bethany Kember) is sparky and makes imaginative use of both the abilities of the cast and the Central Theatre space.

The 1980s costumes – lots of changes for ensemble members some of whom play a whole series of roles – are delightfully brash, bold and colourfully in period. Jo Kember and Julie Smith have done a fine job with them. Where can I buy that green dress and matching handbag?

Full marks too to Musical Director, Owen McColgan and his fine ten piece band, positioned conventionally between the front row and the stage – there is no pit at Central Theatre. One of the very best moments of the evening is the Klezmer number in the Bar Mitzvah scene with delicious, showpiece clarinet and trumpet work.

 First published by Sardines:
Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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