Review: THE WEDDING SINGER Celebrates Going After Your Biggest Dream: A New Sound System
Dreams motivate all of us to go after that which we seek to complete ourselves and our lives. Such is the story behind THE WEDDING SINGER, a musical based on the New Line Cinema film starring Adam Sandler, written by Tim Herlihy, with music by Matthew Sklar, lyrics by Chad Beguelin, book by Chad Beguelin and Tim Herlihy, now being presented at the Morgan-Wixson Theatre in Santa Monica through August 3. The valiant effort, directed by Kristie Mattsson, produced by Spencer Johnson, choreographed by Niko Montelibano, with music direction by Daniel Koh, takes us back to 1985 when rock star wannabe Robbie Hart (talented Alexander Cooper in his Morgan-Wixson debut) is New Jersey's favorite wedding singer, performing with his slacker buddy Sammy (Doug Kiphut who portrays the big-haired and small-brained slacker to a tee) and keyboard/tambourine player Doug (attention-grabbing Deonte Allen). Robbie is the life of the party until his own fiancée Linda leaves him at the altar. Shot through the heart, Robbie vows to make every wedding as disastrous as his own.
Complications ensue and sparks fly when he meets Julia (Krystyna Rodriguez, who was having a real problem with her pitch at the performance I attended), a charming waitress at the wedding venue where he frequently appears. But, of course, as luck would have it, she is about to be married to Glen, an egotistical Wall Street shark played to perfection by Steve Weber, who you will just love to hate.
Thrown in to the mix are Julia's best friend and co-waitress, Holly, portrayed with nervy charm by Holly Weber, who commands the stage with her portrayal of the fast and loose young woman just broken up with slacker Sammy. Then of course, there is Linda (Emily Holz), Robbie's ex, who has completely changed her image and taken on the combined persona of Cyndi Lauper and Madonna, who decides life with him was better than anything else she has found and wants back in. So, unless Robbie can pull off the performance of a decade, the girl of his dreams will be gone forever, especially since he has been asked to play at her upcoming wedding. So how will things work out for the right couples wind up together?
There are many standouts in the production, most notably Miriam Billington who rocks the house as Robbie's well-intentioned but meddling grandmother Rosie, as well as the ensemble members who take on the many different roles needed during big, energetic production numbers: (in alphabetical order) Nelson Balmore, Kelly Ciurczak, Mirai Booth-Ong, Chris Clonts, Kalila Horwitz, Esteban Hurtado, Natalie Kahn, Sara Kaner, Daniel Koh, Crystal Moh, Michael Muita, Helena Nelson, Kelsey Nisbett, Eileen O'Donnell, Gianna Pira, Angelica Roque, Morgan Rysso, Hollister Starrett, Jacques Tolefree and Jacklyn Uweh.
However, director Mattsson, who helmed the Morgan's sold-out hit production of Mary Poppins last season, certainly should have known about the theater's sound system problems and addressed them in advance of the opening. For as entertaining as this big rock musical should have been, unfortunately it suffers from the worst of all problems in staging such an extravaganza - a sound system which cannot handle the volume needed to successfully present such an undertaking.
Consequently, even the music track was played too softly to achieve the necessary effect, with the singers often barely audible over it. Well aware of its sound system problems, the Morgan-Wixson is raising funds for the necessary upgrade by holding a raffle drawing during the run to win tickets to see "Miss Saigon" at the Hollywood Pantages. For more information and ways to donate, visit https://www.morgan-wixson.org
Perhaps the biggest saving grace in the production is the entertaining choreography which fills the stage with clever, comical, and attention-grabbing costumes designed by director Mattsson and wigs designed by Alejandro Bermudez which honor the "big" outrageous mid-80s fashion trends. In fact, the talented ensemble went through more changes than I could count with nary a one missing an entrance during the many scene changes. No doubt stage manager Ashley DeFrancesco is to be credited for keeping things in order backstage.
THE WEDDING SINGER is being presented by Santa Monica's Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., June 29 through August 3, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Adults $28, Students and Seniors $23. Visit www.morgan-wixson.org or call (310) 828-7519 for tickets. Recommended for ages over 12, with parental guidance suggested for explicit language, adult themes, and simulated drug use. Easy, free parking is available a block west of the theater, with lots of great restaurants within walking distance.
Photo credit: JDCPhotography