The Aurora Fox presents the regional premiere of The Wedding Singer, an original musical based on the 1998 hit movie staring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. Add to that the excitement of Denver native Mandy Moore, Emmy-nominated choreographer for her work on the hit reality show So You Think You Can Dance, who directs the production, and you’ve got a show that the whole town is buzzing about. The Wedding Singer tracks an unlikely romance between the lead singer of a local band that is in demand for weddings and a waitress who is engaged to an inflated representation of Wall Street in the ’80’s. The entire show is a nostalgic throw-back to the ’80’s, from the song style, the costume choices, and the carefully selected cultural references.
Wedding Singer Hits 80’s Nostalgia With Best Shot
HE SAID: This show is probably best billed as a “guilty pleasure” musical, much like the film is for a lot of people. The difference is that I would rather watch this cast than Adam Sandler and/or Drew Barrymore any day. In the vein of Legally Blonde the Musical or even Shrek the Musical, this show has occasionally touching music and eventually shows some heart in the plot. And what it does have in spades is a lot of fun as it tries to capitalize on nostalgia for the 80’s to get the audience to invest in a somewhat flimsy story.
SHE SAID: Mandy and Missy Moore, the designers at the Aurora Fox, and the cast certainly knew how to pump up the fun and the feeling of that bedazzled decade to present this bodacious musical. The music is original, cute and catchy (I sing it often in my car), even if none of it rivals the best musical theatre standards from that decade or this one. The characters are entertaining, but generally one-dimensional and not helped by a relatively weak book. One noticeable exception is Robbie, the titular wedding singer, who is written with depth, complexity and growth.
Aurora Fox Casts Local Favorites to Take Our Breath Away
HE SAID: Leads Ben Dicke (Robbie Hart) and Brianna Firestone (Julia) were vocally fantastic in the show; really shining during numbers like “Casualty of Love” as well as some of the ballads. But as lovely as both of these two were, the real treasures in the show were found in some of the songs that feature supporting characters. David Nehls wailed during “George’s Prayer”, Sue Lester was the comedic gold in the show as Grandma Rose, and Amanda Earls and Travis Risner as the evil significant others had their own power numbers that blow the roof out (almost literally with the pyrotechnics in Earls’ second number).
SHE SAID: The leading voices handled the 80’s style music very well, and the ensemble and band were well-directed by David Nehls. Dicke managed to balance the sweet and pathetic parts of his character, hitting the mark with an endearing and impressive performance. Firestone looked and sounded as sweet and can be. I also really enjoyed Robert Michael Sanders’ performance as Sammy — he was funny as always, and I wished that he had more time to show off his pleasing solo singing voice. The ensemble were spot-on — they executed the cute and period-appropriate choreography with polish and energy and sounded great to boot.
Wedding Singer Design Spins Us Round (Like a Record)
HE SAID: While the performances gave a lot to be proud of, the technical elements could have used some of that same polish. The set (designed by Charles Dean Packard) was ambitious and for the most part the moving platform with the rotating stage which housed three different standing sets was a brilliant idea and worked like gangbusters. That made the fact that it was so squeaky all the more unfortunate. The music videos showed beforehand and the special pre-show speech were fantastic additions as I personally love it when companies take advantage of that time to set the mood.
SHE SAID: I really loved everything about the costume design (by Meredith Murphy)– the costumes were specific, clean, well-fitting, and really fun. It is especially notable that the ensemble members, who played different characters in every scene, were always fully dressed and wigged to represent each new person. The scenic design was incredibly clever and ambitious. Not all elements of the set were executed as smoothly as they could have been, but the vision of the design team was incredible, and it continued to surprise and impress throughout the show.
(NOTE: When speaking about design, we chose to leave out our comments on the sound as we heard it was a known technical problem the company were working hard to fix. Hopefully, they do.)
Wedding Singer Fights For The Right to Party
THEY SAID: Although the book for this show was nominated for a Tony, we still felt it was a bit weak, which left us longing for characters that are a bit more dynamic. That said, this cast has done all they can to squeeze the heart of this show while bringing us the fun and flare that made the decade so lasting in many people’s minds. Directors Mandy Moore and Missy Moore have really crafted a splendid looking piece with the help of some ambitious design elements. If they’ve managed to work out some of the technical kinks, then there is nothing that would stop this show from being a fantastically entertaining night out at the theatre.
For a full plot synopsis and history of The Wedding Singer, see the wikipedia article. The Wedding Singer plays through March 6 at The Aurora Fox. Click the banner below for tickets and more information.
(Full disclosure: SHE auditioned for this production of The Wedding Singer and was not cast, so any of her opinions that might relate that experience should be taken in stride.)