Sunday, February 26, 2023

"The Wedding Singer" at Lyric Arts

I've never seen the 1998 Adam Sandler movie The Wedding Singer, and am unfamiliar with the 2006 musical adaptation (which was nominated for five Tonys). I went into Lyric Arts' new production of the musical with zero expectations, and found it to be a very fun, very funny show. It's not a particularly revolutionary story, boy meets girl, etc., but it's a whole lot of fun. The huge cast's energy, enthusiasm, and commitment to the campy '80s era is infectious, and the original score (by Matthew Skylar and Chad Beguelin, who also wrote the score for another super fun show, The Prom) is cute and catchy. The Wedding Singer might be just what you need to bring a little light and joy into these last dregs of winter.

"It's Your Wedding Day!" (photo by Molly Weibel)
The titular wedding singer is a man named Robbie Hart, who wrote a song called "It's Your Wedding Day" that made him and his band with buddies George and Sammy a hit at all the local weddings. When it comes time for the wedding singer to become the groom, his bride leaves him at the alter, sending him into a downward spiral that has him questioning his life and career choices. The only bright spot is a waitress named Julia whom he met at the wedding venue where he often performs. Despite the fact that she's soon to be getting married to financial bro Glenn, the two strike up an easy and charming friendship. Robbie decides to become more like Glenn to try to win her over, which backfires. But this is a musical, so eventually these two crazy kids find their way to each other (and immediately get married, because why not?!).

Highlights of the show include:
  • Robbie and Julia "meet cute"
    (Chris Paulson and Haley Methner,
    photo by Molly Weibel)
    Chris Paulson has been headlining a number of shows around town lately (see also Once and Daddy Long Legs), and he's great as always, but it's fun to see him get a little angry and messy here. His wailing dirge "Somebody Kill Me" is darkly hilarious (kids, cover your ears). He's equally good at conveying Robbie's earnest friendship with and eventual love for Julia (and plays the guitar, too).
  • Duluthian Haley Methner, making her #TCTheater debut as Julia, is a true find. So natural and funny, goofy and charming, with a powerful voice. She and Chris share a sweet and believable chemistry.
  • Cris Sanchez and Justin Michael as George and Sammy complete this believable trio of friends (the former with shades of Boy George, even a Taboo reference), who are there to support their buddy in the dark times and help to pull him out of it.
  • The entire ensemble is great, with a couple of star moments for supporting actors Audrey Johnson as Julia's friend Holly, leading the fun party song "Saturday Night in the City" among others, and Jaclyn McDonald channeling Madonna as Robbie's ex, with a brilliant music-comedy performance of "A Note from Linda."
  • Director Jake Sung-Guk Sullivan manages this cast of over two dozen, keeping the energy up and the story moving, utilizing all parts of the set and stage. Even the scene transitions are fast and fun, with set pieces appearing and disappearing in hidden compartments.
  • Upon entering the theater, the stage looks like a wedding venue, with a large raised stage area, round tables set for a party, and a staircase up the side. It nimbly transforms into other locations like Robbie's grandma's basement bedroom and more (scenic design by Justin Hooper).
  • The six-piece off-stage band (led by Music Director Wesley Frye) is fantastic, and I think were performing at least some of the pre-show music live. I only wish we could've seen them on stage as part of the show, but there's simply no room.
  • Michael Terrell Brown's choreography is really fun and fills the entire stage. There are some "Thriller" moments, as well as other '80s nods I probably didn't catch.
  • Emma Kravig's costumes run the '80s gamut from bad bridesmaid dresses to party wear to Wall Street power suits.
  • There are too many pop culture and '80s references to catch or remember, including "Where's the Beef?," Orange Julius, New Coke, and a newfangled device called a CD player.
As far as movie-to-musical adaptations go, The Wedding Singer is not a bad one, thanks mostly to Skylar and Beguilin's clever and catchy score. While fairly insubstantial, it's a fun one, and Lyric Arts' lovable and hard-working cast makes it enjoyable to watch. See it at Lyric Arts in Anoka Thursdays though Sundays until March 26.


For more of Skylar and Beguilin's work, join me and my fellow Twin Cities Theater Bloggers for a special event at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres! Get $20 off the ticket price for the March 4 matinee performance of the regional premiere of the super fun and heart-warming musical The Prom, and stick around after the show for a talk-back with some of the cast. Read my review of The Prom here, find more info about the event in the Facebook event here, and purchase discount tickets using code TCTB1 or by clicking on this link (discount valid for any performance through March 12).