The Wedding Singer
July 9-August 1, Fridays & Staurday 7:30pm, Sundays 3pm
242-6969 or www.mauionstage.com
It may not be the way of reviewers to reveal their biases, but I’d better: I hate romantic comedies. I’ve seen the film version of The Wedding Singer starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore a time or two, but only because I was on a plane or had lost the remote to Urijah Faber’s cleft chin while channel surfing between UFC fights. That said, I do love the ‘80s, and moreover, love the Iao Theater. Sure it’s no Broadway, but the venue’s musty charm alone can only inspire greatness (Frank Sinatra himself performed there, after all).
Maui OnStage, the stewards of the theater, have been upping the ante with every new undertaking, and the musical rendition of The Wedding Singer is no exception. It’s the last show of the 2009-’10 season, so local theater buffs won’t want to miss it.
If you’re expecting merely a live-action version of the movie, well, it is—but it isn’t. The characters are the same—as is the storyline—but it’s, like, totally a musical. The opening number highlights the cast’s choral qualities and boisterous dance numbers are wonderfully choreographed (keep your eye out for “the groom,” my favorite of the dancers) by the New York know-how of Mauian Alexander Cardinalli.
Cardinalli works blocking magic to wield the large troupe through impressive moves on the small stage, making full use of the cleverest of the production’s elements—a large set piece at center stage, tiered like a wedding cake. A collaborative concept with an original design by Caro Walker, it’s an element that makes evident the production’s well-thought-out efforts.
Directed by Lisa Teichner, this colorful adaptation will transport you to Richfield, New Jersey circa 1985 (though done in a way that could be Anywhere, USA). Some concepts are boiled down to song and dance, like a monologue performed by Casey Murphy, playing Robbie’s (Sandler’s character) evil ex, Linda. During rehearsals, Murphy’s execution was near perfect, and her self-styled choreography elicits red-faced roars from even the cast members. Her performance alone is worth the ticket and your time.
Lead actors Mark Bolden (Robbie) and Jaqui Sherwood (Julia, Barrymore’s character) look a bit like the kind of folks you might find employed by Disneyland, portraying princes and princesses for pictures and in parades. And I mean that in the best way. They both have classic good looks that meld well together, and their characters are made their own, as opposed to mere imitations of their silver screen counterparts.
That said, Bolden—for a lead—is a bit one-note. In the aftermath of Linda standing him up at the alter, I just don’t feel his pain. It’s such a turning point for this character, that as an audience member, I need to know his grief. Meanwhile, Kalani Whitford as George and Monica Barnas as Holly steal the spotlight. Too, Charles Cook as Glen Gulia—Julia’s sleazy junk-bond trader boyfriend—has his moments, but his apparent real-life nice guy-ness translates to the stage in a way that takes away from the role. Maybe it’s the romance-hater in me, but I want more of melancholy. It’s the yin to the yang of funny!
But if theater is hard, then local theater is harder—and the cast and crew are passionately brewing up a show that will be enjoyed by those young and old. All the music is performed live under the direction of Vania Jerome, who sits at keys, which adds a touch of class to any ‘80s cheese. But cheesiness with The Wedding Singer is part of the point. The main point, though is that we’re lucky to have such charismatic actors and committed crews that can put together shows like these. Shows that even a too-bitter-for-her-tender-age critic like me can love and laugh with.