THE WEDDING SINGER
Music by Matthew Sklar, Book by Chad Beguelin and Tim Herlihy
Lyrics by Chad Beguelin
Based on the New Line Cinema film written by Tim Herlihy
Upright Theatre Co.
Artistic Director- Natalie Burkhart
Directed by Michael Childs
Stage Manager- Taylor Ray Donaldson
Music Director- Noel Clark
Choreographer- Whitney Morris
Fight and Intimacy Director- Carlo J. Acetunyo
Set Designer/Carpenter- Conor Clark
Properties Design- Shaun Senter
Costume Design- Megan A. Liles
Lighting Design- Branson White
Sound/Projection Design- Natalie Burkhart
Scenic Painting- Kat Dennis
Assistant to Fight/Intimacy Director- Jorilyn Tasker
Dance Captain- Millie Cole
Fight Captain- Levi Moore
Dramaturg- Laura Tolsma
Robbie Hart- Shaun Senter
Sammy- Alex Trevino
George- MattJohn West
Julia Sullivan- Delaney Gebhartl
Holly- Ash Hood
Glen Guglia- Jacob Waters
Rosie- Barbara Catrett
Linda- Leah Flores
Angie- Julianne Plantes
Ensemble/Robbie Understudy- Levi Moore
Ensemble- Kyle Morris
Ensemble- Cam Hayes
Ensemble- Mark Eaglesham
Ensemble- Whitney “A1” Smith
Ensemble- Whitney Morris
Ensemble- Millie Cole
Ensemble- Jaelon Wingham
Glen Understudy- Taylor Ray Donaldson
Reviewed Performance: 2/11/2023
Reviewed by Edna Elizabeth Ellsberry, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Upright Theatre’s production of The Wedding Singer, based on the film, is a diverting way to spend an evening. The seats are at tables, which enhances the idea that we are guests at a wedding, and we get to see several of these during the course of the show. One is greeted with 80’s hits playing in the background, and drinks are complimentary, with a donation suggested. On a personal note, it was nice to have a table to take notes, rather than scribbling in the notebook on my lap. The stage contains bright fuchsia walls, with very 1980s designs inscribed, and a screen in the center on the back wall, which serves as the backdrop for the many locations in the piece, including Robbie’s basement room, wedding reception venues, nightclubs, and a corporate office. There is a wedding cake stage right and a Casio keyboard in the center under the screen. We are about to travel back to New Jersey, in 1985.
The lights come up, and it is the middle of a wedding reception, as the upbeat opening, “It’s Your Wedding Day,” begins. The three-piece band, comprised of lead singer Robbie (Shaun Senter,) Sammy, (Alex Trevino) a bass player with “Flock of Seagulls” hair, and George, (MattJohn West) with his own enviable Boy George locks, are playing to the crowd. George even plays his original composition, “Music to Digest By,” later in the scene. What reception would be complete without an awful Best Man speech, but Robbie manages to calm the crowd. We meet waitresses Julia (Delaney Gebhartl) and her outspoken cousin and best friend, Holly (Ash Hood), whom we learn, formerly dated Sammy. Julia is dating Glen Guglia, played by Jacob Waters, reminiscent of Bill Hader, who is a busy Wall Street trader and is working too hard that night to celebrate their anniversary. Julia’s mom, Angie, played to great effect by Julianne Plantes, boasting a Jersey accent, big hair, and glasses, wants her daughter to be married and taken care of. Robbie is optimistic about his impending marriage to Linda and wants to write her a special song, and Julia offers advice.
But the song is sadly never to be performed for his beloved, because Linda (Leah Flores), who sports the best big, crimped 80’s hair in the show, delivers “A Note from Linda,” which she then performs in a sexy music video-style number, complete with fan-blown hair. Robbie, who has just been given a coin-operated bed as a wedding present by his grandmother, sweet, but salty-mouthed Rosie, (Barbara Cartrett), is left at the altar. His song is appropriately titled, “Into the Toilet.”
In Julia’s life, Glen makes up for abandoning her on their anniversary to take her to a very fancy restaurant, where every couple is becoming engaged, all around them. And, low and behold, Glen pops the question.
Meanwhile, Sammy encourages Robbie to play a previously scheduled gig, which proves to be a big mistake, although members of the ensemble, outcasts at their table, have a great number, “Casualty of Love.” Unfortunately, the reception is a disaster, and Robbie is thrown into a dumpster by the groom, making way for Julia to sing. “Come Out of the Dumpster.” Through Julia, Sammy, and George, Robbie finds that he can play other parties, leading to a bar mitzvah, including “George’s Prayer,” a riff on Spandau Ballet’s slow dance song, True.
In true rom-com fashion, Julia enlists Robbie’s help at the mall, shopping for wedding items, along with Holly. A photo of a typical mall of the period appears on the screen, and the ensemble dances in, carrying shopping bags, reminiscent of many commercials of the period. And, of course, a kiss occurs, because Julia and Robbie are falling for each other. Holly, impressed by the kiss, asks if she can pursue Robbie, so what do they do? Go to a big nightclub in the city of course! “Saturday Night in the City” ends Act I.
Robbie realizes he is in love but has no financial stability, so, to win Julia’s love, he needs to get a real job. He decides to visit Glen’s Wall Street company, where the Go-Go Eighties reign. “All About the Green” is set in the corporate office, and provides Robbie, Glen, and the ensemble, with a catchy song and inventive choreography. In the office, the question is: What is going to be the next big thing? There are references to Starbucks: “No one is going to pay three dollars for a cup of coffee!” to New Coke, “A great idea!” Robbie buys into it all and he is given a job in the mailroom.
Robbie decides to quit the band, as well as write music, disappointing both his bandmates and Rosie, who is celebrating her fiftieth wedding anniversary. Robbie learns that Glen not only disrespects his engagement but makes it clear that he will continue to dally after he is married. Robbie gets drunk and passes out, only to have erstwhile Linda come back into his basement room, and his life, demanding, “Let Me Come Home,” in another great based-on-MTV-video number. Of course, this only adds to the confusion, as Julia discovers Linda, and she decides that she and Glen need to elope to Las Vegas.
There are so many charming elements in this production, and the costumes are incredibly fun. I am of a certain age, and my formative years were in the 1980s so, apart from a little personal grumbling about the hair and shoulder pads not being big enough, this is a treat for the eyes. What fun it must have been to scour thrift shops for these clothes! There are a lot of scenes that require wedding attire, but also clothes for shopping, office, and nightclub wear, so this was quite a job.
The ensemble deserves a lot of praise, as they do an amazing job playing so many different types of characters throughout the production, while also singing, dancing, and sporting those looks. The enthusiasm and energy they bring to this production must be acknowledged. Seven of these hardworking performers are fake celebrities at the end of the show, from Fake Ron and Nancy to Fake Billy Idol to Fake Tina Turner, and more.
The varied song styles from the period reflect everything from Van Halen to New Wave pop, depending on the mood of the song. It reminded me of the television show, Crazy Ex-Girfriend, mixing styles, and moods, nodding to well-loved tunes or motifs. This was a pleasure for me, as I am quite familiar with the era, but would be as enjoyable for those who are not as well-versed with the period, and simply appreciate catchy music and dancing.
Full Disclosure: I have never seen the movie on which the stage musical is based. I have seen clips, notably involving the real Billy Idol, and a few other scenes. Perhaps because of this, having no preconceived notions, allows me to approach the show with fresh eyes. Had I seen the movie, my awareness is that a stage show is not a movie; some things occur onstage that would not work in a film. And vice versa.
If you want to spend an evening full of pure entertainment follow this recipe: listen to some 1980s tunes, perhaps raid a closet filled with vintage clothes, grab a group of friends, and enjoy this production sitting at your table.
The Wedding Singer
Dates thru February 26, 2023
Upright Theatre Company
Upright Studio on Main
2501 N. Main Street, Suite 210, Euless, TX 76039
For information and tickets: https//uprighttheatre.org