The Wedding Singer – New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham

Book: Chad Beguelin and Tim Herlihy

Music: Matthew Sklar

Lyrics: Chad Beguelin

Director: Nick Winston

Reviewer: John Kennedy

Based on the lucrative box office eponymous 1998 movie Rom-Com that, being generous, lent Adam Sandler’s career at least some ephemeral gravitas, the much lauded ‘chemistry’ between him and love interest, Drew Barrymore, became a water-cooler buzz topic. What actual chemicals they shared, not least what was in that gossip-water, remains open to conjecture.

Tonight, the titular protagonist, Robbie Hart (see what they’re doing with his name there?) played with muscular enthusiasm by Jon Robyns, is a fantasist Rock star wannabe about to get jilted by fiancée fatale, Linda (Hannah Jay-Allan) at the altar. Serves them both right.

We share his pain but, the delicious irony of aWedding Singerfronting a naïf, cod-rock, tribute band calledSimply Wed,being dumped at his own wedding helps us bear it with a degree of smirking fortitude. Robbie’s a loveable child imprisoned inside an infantile dreamer’s ambition redeemed, when right girl, Julia (Cassie Compton) hiding in plain sight, gives him a right good kick in the fun-bags awakening.

Essentially, everybody’s a nice person unless they’re a hiss ‘n’ boo baddy – and they always get to sing the Devil’s best tunes – albeit they’re a devil to recall ten minutes after leaving the theatre. Ray Quinn’s, Glen Gulia, referencing Oliver Stone’sWall Street, Gordon Gekko ‘greed-is-good’ monster, is satisfyingly convincing with his brash, dollar-splashing restaurant tipping and predatory, women pawing sleaze. His brick-sized Motorola mobile ‘car-phone’ and red power-pants braces clearly not horrific enough to forestall the two decades later sub-prime meltdown.

Set Designer, Francis O’Connor’s 1980s movie-screen motifs resonate with disturbingly nostalgic panache. The foreshortened, near-derelict telegraph pole, a brooding cypher of a rampant digital age about to be unleashed. Remember, this was still the decade where pockets of the Rebel Alliance would still not surrender to the outcome of the VHS/Betamax Wars.

Eventually, true love interest triumphs, grabs the rough diamond boy by the scruffs and sings him into kitsch and kiss finale submission. This show is deliriously silly nonsense, giddily ephemeral and in spite of – even better because of – its close to star-strangled banality, it should be treasured all the more for it. Tonight, being able to share that matters. Being definitely one for the retro-enthusiasts it can’t fail to disappoint.Dynastypadded shoulders and bouffant scheming attitudes welcome – that’s the power of love.

Runs until 27 May 2017| Image: Contributed

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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