MusicalReviewSouth East

The Wedding Singer – Orchard Theatre, Dartford

Writers: Chad Beguelin & Tim Herlihy
Music: Matthew Sklar
Director: Nick Winston
Reviewer: Dan English

There is the adage ‘always the bridesmaid, but never the bride’ but what about anyone else at a wedding? Adapting the 90s Adam Sandler comedy, The Wedding Singer explores the trials and tribulations of Robbie, a wedding singer who brings much joy to other couples yet struggles to control his own love life.

It revolves around Robbie (Jon Robyns), a wedding singer that is jilted at the last minute at his own nuptials. Robbie struggles to rebuild his life until befriending waitress Julia (Cassie Compton) who causes the singer’s heart to flutter again.

Directed and choreographed by Nick Winston, this is a fabulously retro piece, right through from the routines to the costumes. Winston’s choreography matches the often explosive score, a good example being Saturday Night in the City giving this production an edginess against its soft comedy core. It is a production carried by its excellent music and dance numbers, wonderfully performed by a tireless ensemble cast. Robyns’ Robbie showcases the former as a musical theatre triple threat. This is a showcase in Robyns’ talent as the leading man excels at singing, dancing and performing. Robbie’s first moments after being jilted are amusing, especially highlighting Robyns’ comic timing. There is a particularly amusing section for the character during his first wedding performance after his own collapses, with riotous consequences.

Cassie Compton’s Julia is a wonderfully sweet portrayal of a girl blinded in love by the extravagance of the partner. It is easy to become caught up in the rock n’ roll chaos of this production, yet Compton’s quiet delivery of Julia is a much-needed contrast in the performance. Her singing ability is assured and she commands the stage during the quieter musical numbers. Sure, the character ticks off every cliched female character in musical theatre, but in Julia, Compton casts a character that feels fully formed.

X Factor alumni Ray Quinn’s Glen is the philander Wolf of Wall Street wannabee, engaged to Julia. Quinn works well with his limited stage time to create an instantly loathsome character, demonstrating his clear musical talent in these segments too. Roxanne Pallett’s Holly is the flirtatious rogue of the production. There is a sensuality about Holly that is unique to this production, yet through this seductive behaviour Pallett does well to craft a character that has her insecurities.

The hilarious Grandma Rosie, portrayed with great conviction by Ruth Madoc. Madoc’s cheeky grandma is the perfect antidote to the insecure grandson Robbie. The character almost feels criminally underused at times, such is the nature of how delightful Madoc’s portrayal is, yet her moments on stage, particularly with a vibrating bed, are a highlight.

Francis O’Connor’s design throws us into the 1980s, with clips from cult films like Cocoon and The Goonies dominating the enormous screen backdrop ahead of the performance beginning. Video projection often sets the scene, although this does feel a slight afterthought, in a set that is kept similar throughout. The malleability of the design allows sets to become multipurpose which is useful in this fast paced production.

The film transfers successfully to the stage supported by a superb musical score. A production that has few flaws, The Wedding Singer will undoubtedly continue to strike a chord with audiences throughout its tour. It certainly did on this opening night, leading to one patron popping the question to his stunned girlfriend. Thankfully, she said yes and the feel-good factor continued long after the auditorium emptied.

Runs until Saturday 25 March 2017 then continues tour nationwide | Image: Contributed

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