Review by Stephanie Lee
The outrageously funny, Tony award nominated Broadway musical The Wedding Singer has landed in Melbourne with a bang on opening night and it does not disappoint. Taking the audience on a journey back to the 80s, this upbeat and vibrant rendition serves up energetic choreography and perfectly timed jokes at every turn.
The musical opens on hopeless romantic Robbie Hart and his band in full swing as they play one of their many wedding gigs, establishing themselves as a wedding band ‘high in demand’. At the end of the first number, it is revealed that Robbie is engaged, soon to be married to his fiancé Linda. Next, we meet waitress Julia and her friend Holly who are expecting Julia’s picture perfect, rich boyfriend Glen to ‘pop the question’- which he later does. After Robbie gets abandoned at the alter by Linda, he loses his wedding singer mojo and soon starts falling for Julia when spending time helping her with wedding preparations. As Robbie embarks on his quest to win over Julia’s heart before she is married to Glen, things get complicated, and this is where the fun begins.
The Wedding Singer is a chaotic blend of rock, pop and comedy, as the plot unfolds in essentially a series of weddings. The transformative nature of the show’s production design allows for quick changes and a fast paced environment, which is crucial to keeping the energy moving forward the entire performance.
The set designed by Nathan Weyers consists of several movable pieces, including two floor-to-ceiling brick wall panels that are effectively used to cover up entrances and punctuate transformation of scenes. At the back of the stage is another brick wall, however, in later scenes of the show neon light tubing on the wall reveals an outline of the city skyline which nicely adds to the aesthetic of the ‘outside’ scenes in the show- particularly Julia’s wedding dress scene by her window. The highlight of the set has to be the big neon ‘Simply Wed’ heart that is consistently used throughout the show as a backdrop to many of the big numbers due to its ability to change colour and selectively light up the heart outline leaving the ‘Simply Wed’ out of the image.
In terms of costumes, this show truly has it all- power suits, clubbing attire, classic 80s jackets and jeans, wedding dresses and of course Vegas impersonator get-ups. With vibrant colours, sequins and ruffles making plenty of appearances, the design by Kim Bishop adds a wonderful pop to an already animated cast.
Similarly, Declan O’Neill’s bright neon and coloured lighting design that covers the whole stage and has flashing lights facing out to the audience allows for that extra razzle dazzle in the big musical numbers. It also sets the tone for the rock and pop infused music of the show, mimicking the lighting you would expect to see at a rock band’s concert.
As for the show’s band itself, they certainly are in full swing from the moment the musical opens, which is impressive considering it only consists of six musicians. With the band pumping and the cast in constant motion the feel-good environment sure makes you want to get up and dance along.
Michael Ralph’s amazing choreography is a true joy to watch and certainly creates the desired lively, colourful atmosphere. It is definitely my favourite part of the whole show and I believe is a large part of why the energy is kept up the entire performance.
Although at times some of the solo vocal moments are not the strongest, the outstanding acting and fantastically energetic choreography more than makes up for it as there are way too many performance highlights to recount. Three of the moments that instantly come to mind as particularly noteworthy are: the rap duo of George and Grandma Rosie, the thriller-esque rock number ‘Casualty of Love’ and the hysterically funny and chaotic mess that ensues when Robbie is left standing at the altar.
As far as individual performances go, the standout for me is Christian Charisiou in the title role of Robbie Hart. His vocals are incredibly 80s lead singer, and all of his solo moments are a delight to listen to and watch. However, possibly the best part about his performance is his commitment to the crying mess solo song ‘Somebody Kill Me’, which is so hilarious and well delivered that you will not be able to stop laughing the entire way through.
Another three supporting actors that make a mark in the show are Nadia Komazec as Holly, Ed Deganos as George and Kirby Burgess as Linda.
Holly’s big number ‘Saturday Night in the City’ features many comedic moments delivered fantastically by Nadia, who brilliantly portrays Holly as the sexually empowered, ‘slutty fairy godmother’ character of the show.
Similarly, Ed Deganos’ portrayal of the kind-hearted bandmate George successfully adds to the eclectic array of characters, with Daganos truly shining due to his infectious energy in both his solo moments: George’s hilarious rendition of ‘Careless Whisper’ and the rap song with Rosie.
Kirby Burgess despite only appearing twice in the role of Linda during the show, definitely makes quite the impression and has to be one of the highlights with her captivating commitment to Linda’s rock and roll infused ballads. In Linda’s high energy number ‘Let Me Come Home’, Kirby commandingly dances around the space, even managing to throw in a sexy slide down the stairs’ handrail, making it one of the most memorable numbers in the show.
The entire cast and crew of The Wedding Singer should feel incredibly proud at the standing ovation they received last night and expect many more as they continue to take to the stage in the Australian Tour.
Even if you aren’t a fan of the original The Wedding Singer movie, you are sure to love this fun, chaotic musical adaption brought to life on stage by this very talented Australian cast!