CHICAGO—When it premiered as a stage musical “The Wedding Singer,” which was adapted from the film of the same name, opened in the huge 1,424-seat Al Hirschfeld Theatre on Broadway. Putting on musical productions in big auditoriums has been, for the most part, typical for musicals today. Now, though, the “Wedding Singer” musical has been revived on the small, black-box theater space of the Edge Off Broadway theater in Chicago.
A change in venue space can sometimes make a big difference for patrons. Indeed, in the revival by Surging Films & Theatrics that recently opened at the Edge, the show is better than its Broadway predecessor. That’s because rather than sitting far from the stage, theatergoers, now closer to the performers, can feel as though they are part of the action.
Based on the 1996 MovieThe musical offers the same plot as that of the Adam Sandler-Drew Barrymore film. Set in 1985, it revolves around Robbie, a wedding singer who is abandoned at the altar by his fiancée. She dumps him because she wants to marry a rock star not a lowly wedding singer.
Robbie believes he is worthless, his life is meaningless, and he becomes deeply depressed. Then, he meets Julie, a kind-hearted waitress, with whom he falls in love. To win her over, though, Robbie has to convince Julie that he’s the guy for her instead of the womanizing, cheating, and shallow Glen, who she is set to marry.
A Nostalgic RompWritten in the 1990s by Tim Herlihy with music by Matthew Skylar and lyrics by Chad Beguelin and Mr. Herlihy, the show is a nostalgic romp back to the 1980s. It features hilarious period costuming by Vicki Jablonski, and it makes references to the first clunky mobile phones, New Coke, impressive sports cars, as well as iconic pop-culture figures such as Boy George, Tina Turner, Billy Idol, Imelda Marcos, Cyndi Lauper, and Ronald Reagan, who is presented as the good-guy president he was.
The show offers more than 20 terrific musical numbers, among which are melodious love songs such as “Come Out of the Dumpster,” “Grow Old With You,” and “If I Told You,” as well as the humorous and upbeat “Today You Are a Man,” “A Note From Linda,” “Pop!,” and “All About the Green.”
These are given a great beat by a wonderful musical troupe of piano, guitar, and drums, played by Joey Calumet, Steven Romero Schaffer, and Lukas Placek. While a small band, they come together to create music that sounds like a much larger orchestra.
Moreover, the musical offers some highlight performances that make it very compelling. These include Kyle Quinlivan as the wedding singer; he's so depressed that he can no longer sing at weddings; Katie Meyers as sweet and sensitive Julie; Jennifer Lenius, a riot as the little old grandma who kicks up her heels as she raps and breakdances; Joe Blanchard in a hilarious imitation of Boy George; Connor Crumley as Linda, Robbie’s heartless fiancée; and Tim Huggenberger as Sammy, a member of the Wedding Singers trio.
Huggenberger does double duty as the choreographer who is responsible for the electrifying dances, which make audience members want to join and dance along with them.
Well directed by Billy Surges, the cast goes all out with high-octane energy to make the show even more immediate and more enjoyable than the film.
While on the surface, it may seem that “The Wedding Singer” is just a light, frivolous, fun-loving musical, the show really has a deeper meaning. It reminds us that loss, while painful, can often be a way for growth. And that pain, which is often temporary, can precede better and happier times. Indeed, the message of the show is that rejection and hopelessness doesn’t last, and, if one endures, love and happiness may follow.