Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Wedding Singer"

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entire contents copyright 2011 by Tony Annicone

"The Wedding Singer"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Academy Players first show of their 57th season is "The Wedding Singer". It is based on the movie of the same name. Return to 1986 and relive the days of big hair, Madonna and Thriller. The title character, Robbie Hart, lives in his grandmother's basement in New Jersey and is a would-be rock star who makes do by fronting a band that plays wedding receptions. He's good at his job because he's in love with love and the notion of happily ever after; that is, until he is left standing at the altar by his shanky fiancee, Linda. His dreams of being a songwriter are long gone, replaced by a burning desire to find the right girl and settle down. His only hope of salvation lies in the form of Julia Sullivan, a sweet waitress who unfortunately already has a boyfriend: Wall Street junk bonds whiz kid, Glen. Will true love prevail or not, be sure to catch this show to find out with all its clever twists and turns.

Director Rita Maron infuses high energy in her 19 member cast while musical director Scott Morency obtains top vocals from them and choreographer Dante Sciarra creates some fantastic and funky dances for the show, winning them a spontaneous standing ovation at curtain call.

Rita blocks the show beautifully. She mixes the comic and dramatic moments together, obtaining topnotch performances from her cast. Scott not only conducts his 6 piece orchestra but plays lead keyboards, too. Dante's terrific dance numbers include the snake, cabbage patch, running man, twist, moon walk, disco and kick-line. His dances stop the show with their exuberance. The easily moved set and the 1980's costumes are by Rita and her hard working stage manager, Chelsea Maron keeps the set changes flowing smoothly all night long. She also designed the splendid lighting for the show.

Allen Yannone leads this cast in this huge role and is phenomenal as the angst ridden Robbie. He captures the heart and soul of this character and shows off topnotch dancing skills in the role. Allen's terrific tenor voice is heard in "It's Your Wedding Day" which is his signature song until Linda dumps him, "Somebody Kill Me" is a jazzy song and shows his reaction to her rejection where he hopes she fucking chokes and dies, and "Casualty of Love" is when he destroys the wedding reception he's singing at, insults the bride and groom, the bride knees him in the groin and the groomsmen toss him in the dumpster. Allen's duets with the character of Julia include "Come Out of the Dumpster", where she coaxes him to come out, behave and try singing at bar mitzvahs, "Not That Kind of Thing" where he and Julia go shopping, "If I Told You" where he and Julia have unrequited feelings for each other and in the poignant "Grow Old With You" where he enters from the back of the theatre while strumming a guitar. Caroline Bateson, a gorgeous blonde plays Julia. She is fantastic as this sweet, soulful waitress who wins the heart of Robbie. Julia must make a choice between Robbie and her current fiancee, Glen. She is impressed with Glen, his money and what it can buy. Julia, her mom, Angie and Holly sing "Pop the Question" when they think Glen is going to propose to her. Caroline's first solo is "Someday" where she imagines what it'd be like to get married and then worms her way into the current wedding party which leads to many laughs. The dumpster song is hilarious as she convinces Robbie to sing at non-wedding functions. Then in "Not That Kind of Thing" they explain to the clerk that they aren't the couple getting married and at the end of Act 1 has a funny drunk scene. Caroline's duets with Allen are "If I Told you" which tugs at your heartstrings when they realize they are in love with each other as does the poignant "Grow Old With You" where they admit their love at last. Both of them are marvelous dancers, too. Dynamic job by Allen and Caroline as these two leads. Frankie Gallucci plays Julia at alternating performances.

One of the biggest scene stealers in this show is Meryn Flynn as Robbie's foul mouth grandmother, Rosie who talks about how many men she had sex with before marriage and also bought Robbie a vibrating bed with a coin slot for a quarter. She sings "A Note from Grandma" where she comforts Robbie by saying Linda is a shanky whore and "Move That Thang", a rap song with Zach Searle as George. Douglas Hummel-Price and Zach play Sammy and George, Robbie's fellow band-mates. They are like the three stooges with their funny one liners. They use their powerful voices with Allen in "Today You Are a Man" about a bar mitzvah. Doug shows off his voice in "Single" when they get drunk at a bar. He is a hoot in this role and has great hang dog expressions and talks about working at A & W the rest of his life if the band doesn't succeed. Douglas sings a duet with Chelsea Cook who plays Holly, Julia's cousin, in the romantic ballad "Right in Front of Your Eyes" about falling in love with each other again. The song is reminiscent of "Girls Just Want to Have Fun". Chelsea is fabulous as Linda, commanding the stage in her scenes. She is a spitfire performer who first dances with men in their tuxedos and then with Doug. A funny bit comes when he opens his jacket wearing a t-shirt that says stupid on it and she wears one saying I'm with stupid, wins many laughs. Chelsea stops the show with her powerful solo at the end of Act 1 called "Saturday Night in the City" where she and the cast sing and dance like "YMCA". She, Caroline and Jennifer Dyer as Angie, Julia's mom, do a marvelous job in "Pop the Question" in the first act which starts off as a trio. The three women dance like the Supremes. Jennifer Dwyer plays Holly at alternating performances. Zach usually works tech on shows but in this one he shows off his dancing and singing talent while playing the glitzy tres gay member of the band, a Boy George type. Zach sings a solo on "George's Prayer" where he does a take off on the Seder prayer in Yiddish, obtaining many laughs. He hits pay dirt with his antics as the gay character, wearing zebra spandex.

The show's two unlikable characters due to their cad like qualities in this show are Robbie and Julia's fiancees, Glen and Linda but the performers do topnotch work with them. John Geyer as Glen has a comic song "All About the Green" where he sings about his love of money and wall street trading. He opens the second act with it and John , Allen and the chorus do a terrific dance in this rollicking number with James Lambert, Alexandra Garcia and Kerry Demming as standouts in it. Glen steps out a lot on Julia in the show, is a conceited ass, has a roving eye and gets his just desserts from the Tina Turner impersonator. The trashy Linda is excellently played by Stephanie Morgan who is a hoot in "Linda's Letter" while doing various poses and attitudes in it and in the second act does a sexy vamp dance in "Let Me Come Home" while trying to worm her way back into Robbie's life. She acts like a bitch to Julia when she wants to talk to Robbie. Dania Hammand plays Linda at alternating performances. Mike Dubuc is hilarious as the drunken best man in the first scene giving the toast and later on plays the fake Mr. T. Kudos to the whole cast on their marvelous singing and dancing skills. So for a fun filled return to the 80's be sure to catch "The Wedding Singer" at Academy Players at the newly refurbished Park Theatre

"The Wedding Singer" (23 - 25 September)
@ Park Theatre, 848 Park Avenue, CRANSTON RI

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