BWW Review: THE WEDDING SINGER at Theatre Three
No matter what year you were born, you've probably teased your hair and belted out every word to "Livin' On A Prayer," or "Don't Stop Believing" at some point in your life. The 1980's are celebrated as a never-ending pop music party that everyone seems to remember fondly - including the younger generation who wasn't even around for it! When Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore fell in love onscreen in the 80's-themed 1998 film THE WEDDING SINGER, a comedic classic was born, eventually becoming inspiration to a Broadway musical of the same name in 2006. Although the stage version never quite captured audiences or critics like the movie did (perhaps they were "Too Shy" to pay $111.25 for the blast-from-the-past?), the show was overall well received by audiences. Now, Dallas' theatre-in-the-round, Theatre Three, brings the "Me decade" to the stage in THE WEDDING SINGER and providing a lot of upbeat, fluffy fun.
If the opening night response to the show is any indication of the enthusiasm surrounding the production, then Theater Three has an invincible hit on its hands. Rarely did a moment pass without an audible response to the never-ending puns, catchy songs and familiar 80's faces that fill the stage. Special shout-out to the patron who yelled out in support of the line "...women want someone stable. Someone with a house, a car, a real job." The crowd ate up every. single. word.Following in the famous footsteps of Sandler and Barrymore are the charming Cameron Cobb as Robbie Hart and the cute-as-a-button Katie Moyes Williams (who has an uncanny resemblance - physically and vocally - to her Broadway counterpart Laura Benanti) as Julia Sullivan. With admirable musical-theatre finesse, the two bring their roles to life. Although the pair's personalities are perhaps less eccentric than the Hollywood pair who created the roles, the result is an endearing couple who are perhaps more relatable.
And just as fast as Cobb and Williams take a beat, there's a handful of supporting characters ready to jump in and steal the spotlight. Judging by the applause, it's a toss up whether Nikki Cloer, Alex Heika or Mikey Abrams deserves an award as the fan-favorite. Cloer, with her killer body and equally electric high-notes, brings substantial energy to the stage as the hair-twirling, oversexed Holly. Heika's sassy take on the androgynous, keytar-playing George had the audience rolling in the aisles, and Mikey Abrams, delivering an endless series of campy cameos was as comical as he was unpredictable.One of the bigger disappointments was the size of the cast, particularly the ensemble. The original production of THE WEDDING SINGER (which I happened to see three times, in addition to catching the national tour) hired a total of twenty-one actors, while the Theatre Three team has utilized only fifteen. Although the ensemble is stuffed with an unfair amount of triple-threat talents, the show occasionally felt (and sounded) bare, particularly in group numbers like "It's Your Wedding Day," "Casualty Of Love," and "Saturday Night In the City." But, even with a small, but mighty group, director/costumer Bruce R. Coleman brings out the best of his young cast, finding endless opportunities for each individual to show off their unique skills. Musical Director Mark Mullino and choreographer Kelly McCain created the perfect balance of style and skill, crafting a clean picture, without ever stifling the totally tubular 1980's vibe. Scenic designer David Walsh created some eye-catching backdrops in the unique space, although the use of a handful of "rehearsal cubes" (generic wooden boxes with holes cut out as handles) congests the space more than enhances it. There is no credit in the program for stage props, but if there were a weak link, this would be it: if they're as distracting from the front row as from the back row (beverages made out of loose, glittering fabric, for example), they should be replaced. All in all, boys and "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" - and everybody was having fun, audience and cast alike. Although there's no discount for arriving at the theatre in your 80's best, that didn't stop Monday's opening night crowd (including this reviewer) from showing up dressed ready to party. And that's exactly how the show feels: like an epic flashback that makes the crowd wish they could "Turn Back Time" for more than a couple of hours. The flashback continues through October 16th, with tickets and more information available at www.Theatre3Dallas.com.