BWW Review: THE WEDDING SINGER at Palm Canyon Theatre

BWW Review: THE WEDDING SINGER at Palm Canyon Theatre

Summer is the time for light, fun entertainment, and Palm Canyon Theatre has always selected their brightest, breeziest show as their summer offering. This year's choice is The Wedding Singer, a musical firmly set in the 80's, which is based on the 1998 movie with the same title. Director Anthony Nannini has assembled a blue-ribbon cast, and directed and choreographed them through two hours of high energy singing, dancing and acting. They are accompanied by a live four-piece rock band on stage, led by musical director Jaci Davis. The results are sure to put a big smile on even the most heat-weary viewers!

Mind you, the script of the musical isn't any deeper than the original Adam Sandler movie it is based on, but hey, it's summer. Let your brain have a rest. The plot revolves around Robbie (the incredibly talented Shafik Wahab), who fronts a band that performs at weddings. He's having problems with his girlfriend, Linda (Tessa Walker), and finds himself falling for Julie, a waitress (Elizabeth Schmelling) who always seems to work the same weddings that he does. The fact that she's in a follow spot shortly after her first entrance is musical theatre shorthand that she's the female lead, and hence, will end up with Robbie, the male lead, but not until we've enjoyed some two dozen songs along the way. The songs, with music by Matthew Sklar and Lyrics by Chad Beguelin, are all 80's pop, starting with "It's Your Wedding Day" (which was the only song I recall hearing previously). The musical highlight for me was some very nice duets in the second act, wonderfully delivered by Wahab and Schmelling.

In the last couple of years, PCT has nurtured a very talented ensemble, often tapping into the talent pool from COD. They have hit a high level in this production, with most of the ensemble playing dialogue roles at some point, as well as skillfully executing numerous song and dance numbers. Choreographer Nannini has wisely opted for simple moves executed well, and he has obviously instilled a lot of love and energy into them. The group appears to be having fun, which is contagious.

A couple of the other principals have great singing moments, starting with Alisha Bates as Holly, a waitress who works with Julie. Throughout the show, she sports wardrobe that would make a Kardashian jealous, and at the end of the first act, she gets to cut loose with her wonderful gospel riffs while singing "Saturday Night in the City." Tessa Walker, as Robbie's ex-girlfriend Linda, is highly memorable in a role that doesn't have a lot of stage time. She nails it when she sings "Let Me Come Home." And the audiences have fallen in love with Elissa Landi as Robbie's grandmother. After an act-and-a-half of being seen as a delicate grandmotherly type, she cuts loose with a song called "Move That Thang." Let's just say that she moves all of her "thangs," with choreography that includes fan kicks over her head. The silver haired folks at the matinee I attended were absolutely screaming with delight.

Sets and lighting by J. W. Layne, costumes by Derik Shopinski, props by Nick Wass and wigs by Mado Nunez are all serviceable and keep us in the 80's, with plenty of variations to keep us interested.

The Wedding Singer only plays through July 15, so hurry. Tickets and further information are available at www.PalmCanyonTheatre.org or 760-323-5123.

Photography by Paul Hayashi

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