THE WEDDING SINGERBased on the 1998 Adam Sandler film, “The Wedding Singer”
Music by Matthew Sklar
Lyrics by Chad Beguelin (“Somebody Kill Me” and “Grow Old With You” by Adam Sandler and Tim Herlihy)
Book by Chad Beguelin and Tim Herlihy
Stolen Shakespeare Guild
Director – Nathan Autrey
Music Director—Lauren Morgan
Choreography – Jessica Peterson
Scenic Designer—Nathan Autrey and Lauren Morgan
Lighting Designer—Bryan Douglas
Sound Designer – Jennifer Stewart
Costume Designer – Lauren Morgan
Robbie Hart—Keith Warren
Glen—Robert WL Krecklow
Linda - Lynsey Hale
Ensemble: Fatima Austin, Andrew Beckman, Tevin Cates, Gen Donnell, Michael Green, Erica Harkins, Nancy Lopez, Nicole Shephard, Stacy Okafor
Reviewed Performance: 7/14/2018
Reviewed by Genevieve Croft , Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Set in the 1980’s, wedding singer Robbie Hart is the lead-singer and aspiring songwriter. During a performance one night, Hart announces that he will soon be the Groom-to-be. The next day, he is left at the altar, when unexpectedly, a flash of romance ends up in front of him. Venue waitress Julia Sullivan becomes the object of Hart’s affection. Unfortunately, Julia is engaged to Wall Street money man, Glenn Gulia, a less than faithful fiancé. Chock full of 1980’s references, The Wedding Singer will take you on a journey back in time when MTV played music videos, and cell phones were the size of a briefcase.
Before diving into my review, I would like to tell readers how impressed I was with the pre-show set-up. I was invited to attend as a guest of the wedding. One hour to curtain, pre-show ticket holders are offered the opportunity to mingle with members of the wedding party, enjoy a few wedding reception style snacks, and an adult beverage or two. They even concluded the pre-show event with a slice of Bride or Groom’s cake, and we were “serenaded” by keyboardist George-a dead-ringer (and homage) for Boy George. I highly recommend you take the opportunity to attend the pre-show wedding reception. Not only does it allow you to get up close and personal with cast, it allows you to get into the mood of the play.
Director Nathan Autrey brought together an ensemble cast who worked well together, and collaborated with a crew (scenic, costumes, and lighting) that truly transported the audience back to the 1980’s. Mr. Autrey’s overall vision and concept was very impressive. I found myself a guest of the wedding party during the performance. It was a unique concept to actually be a part of the guest list, and to interact with actors during the pre-show, and during the performance. It truly brought more intimacy, and allowed the audience to be a part of the show, in the small black box theatre space of the Sanders Theatre. The entire company was so fully charged with energy, it really was an upbeat and fun afternoon at the theater. I was very impressed with the staging and the remarkable use of the intimate stage space. Mr. Autrey’s overall vision for the production was carefully thought out and executed to match the story for these fun and eccentric characters in the production. Autrey certainly delivers in the role of director in this production.
Set Designers Lauren Morgan and Nathan Autrey successfully transformed the small black box theatre into the wedding reception venue, and several other locations with simplicity and the appropriate suggestion of these locations. Often times, I feel that black box theatre can be the most difficult to transform in a production. Essentially. The black box theatre space is a blank canvas that the designers can take and transform into any space that they want. Ms. Morgan and Mr. Autrey took the creative and unique approach of transforming the audience seating area into round “wedding guest” tables with chairs. The tables were even decorated with the quintessential table runners and flower centerpieces. The tables and the bandstand stage remained constant through the production, while areas such as Robbie’s basement bedroom, were adorned with classic 1980’s posters (“Kaja Goo Goo,” and Poltergeist) which would come and go with ease during seamless transitions that were executed with fluidity.
I was impressed with both Morgan and Autrey’s attention to detail in each location. There were so many little details that really pulled me into the world of the story. I was absolutely impressed with the overall transformation of the performance space. That is one of the best things staging a production in an intimate black box studio space. Designers and directors are truly able to take the entire audience into the world of the play. It is apparent to me that a lot of time, care, and attention to detail were incorporated from the scenic designers.
Lighting was designed by Bryan Douglas. Douglas did a fantastic job plotting lighting that was appropriate for each scene and mood. It was lively, and aesthetically pleasing. As a frequent audience member, it continually amazes me how something as simple as a color can delineate and represent the entire mood and emotion of a scene. The elements of the lighting design took me back to the 1980’s with the diverse use of colors, and energy. Through the performance, Douglas’ cuing to enhance each scene was spot on. I especially enjoyed how the lighting complimented the scenic design, giving the audience the impression of each mood.
Lauren Morgan designed costumes that were not only appropriate to the 1980’s, but had a fine attention to detail. The fashions were loud, colorful and were stereotypical of 1980’s fashion. It is always fun for audiences to see “period” pieces that allow a flashback to different generations. As a child of the 80’s, I remember the bright neon colors, the shoulder pads, and larger-than-life hairstyles with big curls, and crimps. Ms. Morgan successfully tied the elements of the scenic design with the costume designs, and allowed the audience to step into a time machine to see the dreadfully tacky, yet, somehow fun fashions from the decade of excess.
Keith Warren was incredibly believable in the role Robbie Hart. Through facial expressions and body language, Warren convincingly portrayed the aspiring singer and songwriter. Mr. Warren’s enthusiasm and honesty on stage was nearly constant. Mr. Warren provided the appropriate dose of humor and sadness on stage, and audiences really felt for his character. Mr. Warren’s singing voice was impressive, and I was equally impressed by his guitar playing skills. Fantastic job, overall, Mr. Warren.
Melissa Rosenberg was phenomenal in the role of Julia Sullivan. With a powerful vocal presence, and an impeccable sense of comic timing, Ms. Rosenberg certainly carried herself with grace and talent throughout Saturday’s matinee performance. With fantastic facial expressions, and a wonderful on-stage chemistry with Mr. Warren, Ms. Rosenberg provided some light-hearted comedic moments, and some touching moments displaying the power of love. Ms. Rosenberg had a fantastic on-stage chemistry with Holly (played marvelously by Jill Deramus). There were appropriate moments of laughter, and some fantastic musical numbers from both Ms. Rosenberg and Ms. Deramus.
Another standout was Nancy Lamb in the role of Robbie’s grandmother, Rosie. It was very amusing to see Rosie’s rap skills, in an “impromptu” performance with George. Ms. Lamb gave the audience an unexpected dose of laughter, and gave the audience a huge laugh in the second half of the show.
This production of The Wedding Singer is definitely worth seeing. The attention to detail evident in all aspects of this production makes for a satisfying experience. The production does exactly what the theatre is intended to do - take audiences on a journey, tell a story, and to simply entertain. This production of The Wedding Singer is definitely entertaining and will provide audiences with quite a few laughs, and a fantastic playlist of 1980’s rock hits that will leave you singing along. I will caution you, however, this production is definitely not for anyone under age 13. There is strong language, and suggestive themes. Enjoy the wedding of the decade (the 1980’s that is) and venture over to Fort Worth to the Stolen Shakespeare Guild’s production of The Wedding Singer, it will be a totally rad, awesome, and gnarly experience!
STOLEN SHAKESPEARE GUILD
1300 Gendy Street
Fort Worth Community Arts Center
Plays through July 29th.
Friday/Saturday Evening Curtain 8:00
Weekend Matinee (Saturday and Sunday) 2:00
Tickets $20-$22 (depending on weekend)
Pre-Show Wedding Reception tickets one hour before curtain. Please call for availability.
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