Back in 1998, when the film The Wedding Singer, came out, it was an instant classic, revered for its fun energy and over-the-top 80s costumes. That same fun, infectious energy that made the film so beloved is apparent in NRACT’s production of the musical version, written by Chad Beguelin and Tim Herlihy, with music by Matthew Sklar and lyrics by Chad Beguelin. This particular production, directed and choreographed by Chasta Hamilton Calhoun, really has something special that is evident from the start; it’s so upbeat, so fun, so bright, and so vibrant that it’s really impossible not to love it from beginning to end.
For those not familiar with the story, it’s all about Robbie Hart (John Millsaps), a wedding singer who is in love with love…until he gets stood up at the altar by his fiance Linda (Casey Cleland). Utterly depressed and devastated, the only thing that brings Robbie back to life is a newfound friendship with a waitress named Julia Sullivan (Morgan Abdalla). In the process of helping Julia prepare for her own wedding to a wealthy jerk named Glenn Guglia (Mark Olexik), however, feelings begin to blossom between Robbie and Julia, and they ultimately have to make the decision to fight or give in to those feelings.
Their romantic journey, which is peppered with lots of colorful supporting characters, is brought to life hilariously under the skilled direction of Calhoun. She also makes great use of NRACT’s relatively small space, and, in fact, the intimate setting is perhaps one of the things that make this production really shine. While this musical is often produced in larger venues, in a smaller venue like NRACT, every line is clear, every funny costume detail is visible, leading the audience to feel a closer connection with the story and with the characters. Plus, there really is just something special here; this is one of those productions that just has that “magic” that makes it so thoroughly watchable.
And speaking of “watchable,” the casting for this show is just perfect. Millsaps creates a bumbling, awkward, and ultimately lovable Robbie Hart while the adorable Abdalla uses her innocent face and her powerhouse voice to create an unforgettable Julia Sullivan. Olexik is wonderfully jerky as Glen, and Destiny McNeil lends a sweetness to the promiscuous “Holly” character, Julia’s best friend. Casey Cleland is a perfect Linda with her 80s hair and spunk, and Billy Hoffman and Chris Maxwell are truly hilarious (and amazingly costumed!) in their roles as Robbie’s bandmates. The rest of the cast, which bounces in and out of several parts, is always on point, with every movement and gesture perfectly directed.
The 80s costumes by Jessica Pissini Biviano are, in themselves, worth seeing the show for, as is the amazing, spunky choreography by Calhoun. This is the kind of production that’s so lovable, much like the story, that any imperfections, if they exist, will easily go unnoticed as the audience loses itself in the sheer fun of it all!
North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre presents THE WEDDING SINGER at 8 p.m. June 2-4, 3 p.m. June 5, 8 p.m. June 9-11, and 3 p.m. June 12 at 7713-51 Lead Mine Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina 27615, in the Greystone Village Shopping Center.
TICKETS: $12 Thursday and $20 Friday-Sunday ($17 students, teachers, seniors, and active-duty military personnel).
The Wedding Singer (1998 film): http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/319832/Wedding-Singer-The/ (Turner Classic Movies page), http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120888/ (Internet Movie Database), https://www.facebook.com/WeddingSingerMovie (Facebook page),and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wedding_Singer (Wikipedia).
The Wedding Singer (2006 Broadway musical): http://www.mtishows.com/the-wedding-singer (Music Theatre International), https://www.ibdb.com/Show/View/402889 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wedding_Singer_%28musical%29 (Wikipedia).
Chad Beguelin (lyrics and book): https://chadbeguelin.com/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/402892 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chad_Beguelin (Wikipedia).
Susie Potter is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer and editor. She is a 2009 graduate of Raleigh’s Meredith College, where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. In addition to her work for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, she is an award-winning author of short fiction. Her works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. To read all of Susie Potter’s Triangle Arts and Entertainment articles and reviews, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/susie-q/. To read more of her writings, click http://www.susiepotter.com and http://www.myspace.com/susiepotter.