'The Wedding Singer' Pops into its Regional Debut at Moonlight
by Cassiopeia Guthrie, June 22, 2023
With all of the liveliness and 80s energy of the romantic comedy starring Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler, Moonlight’s regional debut of The Wedding Singer resurfaces memories of the original film while adding an array of tunes by Chad Beguelin and Matthew Sklar, and book by Chad Beguilin and Tim Herlihy.
Under the direction of Larry Raben, the musical has a lot of similarities to the movie. It follows the budding friendship between jilted wedding band front man Robbie Hart and banquet hall waitress Julia Sullivan as each navigates their own trials and tribulations surrounding the romances in their lives. We meet Julia’s feisty best friend Holly (Liliana Rodriguez) and Wall Street boyfriend Glen (Evan White), Robbie’s rocker bandmates Sammy (Eduardo Enrikez) and George (Jacob Hoff), ex-girlfriend Linda (Janaya Mahealani Jones), and grandmother Rosie (Melinda Glib). There are perms, leg warmers, rock band tees, and the expected big personalities common to Adam Sandler’s works.
As the story progresses, the audience is treated to its emotional center courtesy of Julia (played by the youthful and effervescent Megan Carmitchel) and Robbie (performed by the sweet-voiced Brett Benowitz). While a romantic relationship is slow to develop between the two onstage, their lighthearted friendship reads as appropriately companionable, underscored with a budding tension then is finally named in the lovely duet “If I Told You” and the film’s sweet love song “Grow Old With You.”
Rodriguez, who plays Julia’s friend Holly, also does an outstanding job in this production. A triple threat who can handle the demanding track, Rodriguez shines throughout, but especially in “Right in Front of Your Eyes,” in which she appears opposite Eduardo Enrikez as Sammy. Her dance chops are also showcased in a number of high-energy ensemble dance numbers, choreographed by Luke H. Jacobs, including “It’s Your Wedding Day,” “It’s All About the Green,” led by Evan White as Julia’s smarmy cheating fiance Glen Guglia, and “Saturday Night in the City,” which is visually gorgeous and features a multi-level set, neon lights by (Jennifer Edwards), and a sexy water effect.
In addition to the aforementioned players, The Wedding Singer’s large cast includes Jake Bradford, Kevin “Blax” Burroughs, Judy Fernandez, Tracey Freeman-Shaw, Jasmine January, Fisher Kaake, Ryan Perry Marks, Greg Nicholas, Trevor Rex, Lizzy Sheck, Grace Simmons, Helen Tait, E.Y. Washington, Samantha Wynn Greenstone, John Cardenas, Michelle Cohen, Garrett Currier, and Sarah Morgan, accompanied by a 13-piece orchestra under the baton of conductor Tamara Paige. Other production designers for Moonlight’s The Wedding Singer include Brandon Boomizad (sound design), Peter Herman (hair and wig design), Heather Megill (costumes), Bonnie Durben (props), and Stanley D. Cohen (stage manager).
Like the movie, this musical lacks somewhat in substance and leans into cheap laughs that are often bawdy. Beyond that, honestly, as someone who has a generally positive relationship with the source material, I didn’t love all of the changes that were made to the script in order to stage it as a musical.
For example, I felt that there was little value in some of the stereotypes and regional dialects that were affected, and, in fact, they unfortunately detracted from the main storyline. The grandmother character, who is a conflation of Robbie’s sister Kate and his elderly voice student, Rosie, was given somewhat of an unnecessary edgy bent; again, this was unnecessary, and it took away from the lovability of the original character.
Furthermore, in order to make time for the variety of songs, several minor interactions needed to be removed from the script which, while seemingly unimportant in the overall context, actually ended up harming the arc as a whole, as the abundance of those scenes facilitated the generation of genuine feelings for the viewer regarding Julia and Robbie (positive) and Glen (negative). Without these pieces, it is more difficult to engage with the characters and root for them in the same way.
That said, those rolling up to buy what the production is selling - a fun, energetic musical about the path to love, and the ways in which it can change us - will find this Moonlight offering to be a sweet evening out.
The Wedding Singer runs at Moonlight Amphitheatre through June 24.