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  • Writer's pictureBen Kemper

The Wedding Singer

Or: Love in the time of the Keytar


There is a surprisingly large stockade of pop-movies-made-broadway-musicals-with-improving-moral-underpinnings floating about out there. Some, like Hairspray, are very well done, and not only set the feet to tapping and the heart to swelling, but the conscious to moiling as well. Some, like Footloose,...aren’t and don’t, on any count. Haven Theater’s The Wedding Singer falls into a middle ground: its a rollicking and rocking show that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but touches us anyway.


It’s 1985: Robbie Hart (Tony Allen) is the lead singer of a three man band on the Jersey Shore, and has made a name for himself as being a superb MC of and Crooner at Wedding Receptions. Unfortunately when his own nuptial plans go horribly awry, Robbie turns from his friends and family to become a crusader against love, bent on ruining any wedding he comes across. The only one who can possibly save him from a spiral into madness and despair, and maybe even thaw his frozen heart, is Julia (Aja Wiltshire) his friend and co-worker at the catering hall. The problem is she is engaged to be married to Glen Guglia (Jacob Grubb) a prototype of Gordon Gekko without the charm.


Caveat Emptor: squeezed into one of the black boxes of Theater Wit, the cords of 80’s rock can come at one’s ears a little strong. As in Vibrate You in Your Seat strong. As a consequence even the strongest and clearest voices of the cast are eclipsed at various points, prompting this reviewer to mentally broadcast at one point, “Honey, I see your mouth moving but you sound an awful lot like a bass guitar”. However, if it’s hard on the ears the show is more than gracious to the eyes. Director Jess McLeod and choreographer James Beaudry have created some truly dynamic and high stepping dance numbers on a stage perhaps half the size of a motel bedroom, which is nothing to sneeze at.


Allen and Wiltshire make a lovely stage couple, joshing each other, sharing a harmony, making and breaking eyes from across a crowded room, checking all the requirements for romantic leads. Both have very sweet voices but share a tendency to “choke” them, particularly towards the beginnings of songs, deadening their resonance and leaving them prey to the surging tide of the orchestra.


Fortunately they are attend on by a highly talented cast including the delightful Sammy and George (Daniel Martinez and Alex Heika) Robbie’s bandmates and masters of expression, Rosie (Judy Lea Steele) Robbie’s “funky-fresh” grandmother, and Holly (Sarah Bockel) Julia’s freewheeling cousin with a most impressive voice. These are augmented by a first rate ensemble who tackle everything from wall street yuppies to Jersey groupers and everything in between. Special mention to Jeff Meyer for his on-the-nail impressions and Kelly Abell for her facial and vocal plasticity.

All in all the Wedding Singer is a delightful, if loud, way to spend an evening. Both book and lyrics are among the wittiest I’ve heard in a long time and are stuffed with every 80’s reference you could stomach in two and a half hours. The music is catchy too (I dare you not to hum “It’s Saturday Night in the Cit-eh” during intermission) and if the story is predictable and doesn’t teach us much, its handled with grace and enthusiasm and offers us sweetness in one hand and plenty of laughs in the other.

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