The Wedding Singer

February 17, 2022 | By More

★★★☆☆      Gutsy

Rose Street Theatre: Wed 16 – Sat 19 Feb 2022
Review by Thom Dibdin

There’s plenty of gutsy delivery and vocal attack in the Edinburgh University Footlights production of The Wedding Singer, which takes to the main stage of the Rose Theatre until Saturday.

In the face of almost intolerable first night technical failures – and failings – the cast and band threw themselves into their task and succeeded in creating a production which not only tells its story well, but is true to the 1980s setting of the musical, from its sensibilities to its naff dress sense.

Phoebe Simpson and Chris Kane. Pic: Lewis Bursynski

The Wedding Singer of the title is Robbie Hart, who plies his trade in function rooms around New Jersey with his pals Sammy and George. Being around so much love, he has high hopes for his own nuptials to Linda, his fiancé of seven years.

Julia is function room waitress with equally high hopes for her own married future – she’s just waiting for her rich Yuppie boyfriend Glen to get off the phone and propose.

This being pure RomCom territory, it is not much of a spoiler to say that when they meet, its only a matter of how and when, not whether, they are going to wind their way to a satisfying conclusion.

a shiver to the spine

Chris Kane rocks that title role. He has the easy, natural air of the lead singer in a function band, oozing charm, without being smarmy about it. When things get tough and he begins to question love, he finds a real sense of vulnerability, too – if his take on Somebody Kill Me is outrageously good, catching the caustic cynicism of the lyrics, his Casualty of Love, with the ensemble, goes off the scale.

Against him, Phoebe Simpson is completely invested in the role of Julia. She has a lovely mature voice and understanding of her vocal abilities, adding just enough colour to her big number, the yearning Someday, to bring a shiver to the spine – but not so much as to detract from its storytelling and place in the rest of the musical.

Rachel Meek. Pic: Lewis Bursynski

As Holly, Julia’s best friend and fellow waitress, Lucy McClure has plenty of space to play with the comedy of the role. She’s enthusiastically larger than life, particularly in her sparing with Beni Barker as her ex and band member Sammy, and her delivery of Act 1 closer, Saturday Night In The City, but is also believably humane in the role.

That comedy is enhanced by Katie Slater’s direction, having her cast play the whole piece with a nicely cynical attitude. It allows the likes of Rachel Meek to give Robbie’s grandmother Rosie a sense of fun and play her with a spry athleticism which belies her stooping gait.

If you are going to play the laughs, the villains will naturally tend toward the pantomime variety.

Megan Le Brocq as Linda is no disappointment. Her A Note From Linda – received by Robbie at the altar – is delicious in its spite and her Succubus act in Let Me Come Home is a triumph of costume design, direction, choreography and performance.

hard working company

Mitchell Collins as Glen needs to go two or three notches higher in intensity, however. It’s a solid performance with plenty to like about it, including great use of a brick-sized “mobile” phone, just not enough out-and-out villainy – even in the Act 2 opener with Robbie: All About The Green.

Mitchell Collins. Pic: Lewis Bursynski

This is a thoroughly hard working company all round, with nearly everyone called on to swing into the ensemble at some point and with many of the ensemble creating lovey little cameos. Guilia Pesciarelli, Eleanor Flavin and Harriet Masters are constants: ever the bridesmaids but always with a slightly different attitude.

Iona Bacrau’s choreography is solid, swerving from the realistic drunken wedding dances, to bigger ensemble numbers which are well drilled without being over complicated.

The team on set design have gone for a minimal approach, leaving the company with a lot to do in terms of creating a feeling of place. There’s a lot more than meets the eye to the costume design by Ryan Dai, Willow Bowket and Ruby Mansell, who have the feel and tone of it just right.

If the performances are easily of the standard set by this company over the years, they were horribly let down by the technical department on opening night with microphone cut-outs and fingers not being nimble enough to bring individual microphones in on cue.

invigorating

Unusually in such cases, the balance favoured the turns on stage. Hopefully, once the glitches are sorted, they might be able to bring the volume up on the band, who seemed to be playing an acoustic set at times, under the baton of Rebecca Kelly.

Despite the difficulties, this remains an invigorating interpretation of a musical which has a tendency to wallow in schmaltz when, as here, the clever option is to emphasise its cynicism.

Running time: Two hours and 30 mins (including one interval)
Rose Theatre, 204 Rose Street, EH2 4AZ
Wed 16 – Sat 19 February 2022
Evenings: 7.30pm; Mats Fri, Sat: 2.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

ENDS

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.