The Wedding Singer at the Morgan-Wixon Theatre
Based on the beloved 1998 Adam Sandler / Drew Barrymore film of the same name, The Wedding Singer is a sweet musical-comedy that will have audiences believing in love again. In 1986, wedding singer Robbie Hart is left at the altar, and left questioning the validity of what he sings about: love. Waitress Julia is engaged to well-off Glen, a crooked Wall Street exec, despite her lingering doubts and blossoming feelings for Robbie. Will the two lovebirds find their way together? Go see The Wedding Singer at the Morgan-Wixon Theatre in Santa Monica to find out!
With an eclectic cast of yuppies, punks, goths, and Madonna wannabes, The Wedding Singer is brought to life on stage with an upbeat ‘80s score (by Matthew Sklar). The over-the-top group numbers are rife with high-energy choreography (by Niko Montelibano), and fabulously wild costumes (by director Kristie Mattsson) and wigs (Alejandro Bermudez). The talented chorus members are so committed to each and every character they portray, that each scene feels like a different group of people, and the harmonies are top-notch.
Tom Brown’s set design might not be as flashy as The Wedding Singer’s original Broadway run, but the costumes and energy of the cast are more than capable of filling the stage with pizzazz. The simple sets, however, are conveniently transformable, easily transitioning into a Wall Street office, Robbie’s bedroom, a wedding hall, a club, and even a Vegas chapel. The clever arrangement of Robbie’s bedroom especially provides a few laugh-out-loud moments. The lighting design (by Cambria Martin) also complements the sets, and aides in specifying the different locales.
The cast of The Wedding Singer leans more heavily into thoughtfully portraying the characters than stunning with vocal prowess. Although none of the actors are poor singers, I felt that they really shined in the intimate character moments (“Come Out of the Dumpster” and “I Wanna Grow Old With You”) more than the bombastic pop-rock numbers. The quiet moments between Robbie (Alexander Cooper) and Julia (Krystyna Rodriguez) are sweet and charming; we clearly see a connection between these two. Robbie’s friend Sammy (Doug Kiphut) could have swayed into #metoo territory, but instead seemed hopelessly in love in Kiphut’s able hands. The stand-out, for me, is Holly Weber as Julia’s friend Holly. Emulating Madonna in her ‘80s glory, Weber seems the most seasoned of the leads; she brings an electric energy to her big song-and-dance numbers, “Right In Front of Your Eyes” and “Saturday Night in the City.” It is hard not to watch her while she’s on stage. Talented actors Steve Weber (Glen), Miriam Billington (Robbie’s grandmother, Rosie), Deonte Allen (Robbie’s band-member, George), and Emily Holz (Robbie’s ex, Linda) all provide colorful, stand-out moments and enjoyable musical numbers.
While The Wedding Singer is ultimately a charming tribute to the movie, there are some nagging issues in the stage production, but nothing more time can’t fix. With so many cast members and moving parts within a given number, the epic choreography can use a bit of tightening. It’s distracting when most people are in sync, except one or two being off. Since I attended the first weekend of shows, the cast also needs to settle into the pacing more; a few spots felt as if lines were forgotten or timing was off, the jokes not landing properly. My biggest issue, however, is the sound. Although the leads are equipped with microphones, the mics either were not turned on, or set too low. Even though the pre-recorded music tracks are played pretty quietly (another issue, since the music sometimes got lost underneath the chorus’ singing), it often felt like the leads had to shout their lines in order to be heard. This might have contributed to one of the leads losing their voice completely during the show I attended. And on more than one occasion, lyrics were lost. I think the music/singing balance definitely needs to be worked out to allow the audience to hear everything and the actors to save their voices.
The Wedding Singer has some truly great moments and a lively cast, but the show itself inherently has some peaks and valleys. While not all the songs are catchy winners like “Saturday Night in the City” or reminders of the movie like “Somebody Kill Me” and “I Wanna Grow Old With You,” the cast does what it can with the source material, bringing an intimate sweetness to the flashy ‘80s setting. With some fine-tuning to the choreography and pacing, The Wedding Singer is definitely a fun time at the theater, and reminds the audience that love isn’t always “All About the Green.”