Review: The Wedding Singer (Hart House Theatre)

The Wedding Singer is a lively musical filled with ’80s nostalgia playing at Toronto’s Hart House Theatre

Out of the classic Adam Sandler movies, The Wedding Singer is one of my favorites. Free from his repertoire of signature vulgar humor often done for sheer shock value, The Wedding Singer is light, comical, filled with great ’80s musical nostalgia, and it’s romantic — and I’m usually not one for romantic movies. Until recently I didn’t realize that The Wedding Singer was made into a stage musical and that U of T’s Hart House Theatre was taking it on.

With my head filling with the chorus to Dead or Alive’s “You Spin Me Round”, I was eager to see how they took the movie to the stage and wondered how many of those classic songs I’d be able to rock out to in my seat.

Being too caught up in my own musical revelry, it didn’t occur to me until much later that a stage musical would include a whole soundtrack of its own original songs. With music by Matthew Sklar and lyrics by Chad Beguelin, the music tells the lovelorn tale of the wedding singer Robbie Hart (Isaac Bell) abandoned at the altar on his own big day and the waitress Julia Sullivan (Ashley Gibson) about to marry her own far from charming prince.

Considering I wasn’t previously familiar with the musical, I was pleasantly surprised by the cleverness in the original music’s lyrics. The show’s opening “It’s Your Wedding Day” is fun and witty while “Casualty of Love” was appropriately spiteful delivering Robbie’s big flip the bird moment after being dumped at the altar. “Single” is the perfect guy’s guy bar song.

Being a fan of the movie, what stole the show for me was the inclusion of Sandler’s original songs “Somebody Kill Me” and in particular “Grow Old with You” that Bell so beautifully delivered.

Was I blown away by this show? No, not in particular. There is no hidden meaning of life to be gained from The Wedding Singer, it’s just a fun couple of hours remembering the movie and all the good and mostly bad that came from the ’80s. I was impressed by the choreography though there were a few moments where it felt clunky making the stage seem crowded and confusing but those moments were few and far in between. Kudos to choreographer Amanda Nagy.

I thoroughly enjoyed the chemistry between Bell and Gibson — their attraction and love felt palpable.

My biggest concern was that the direction didn’t come across and I didn’t feel much character development from the rest of the cast. They came off feeling rather single note. Granted much of the show’s focus wasn’t on the rest of the cast until later in the second act. My date for the evening, Vance, agreed that aside from Gibson and Bell, the cast didn’t seem to connect and resonate with the full of the audience.

Vance pointed out that though you try to disassociate the movie from the musical and therefore Sandler’s performance from Bell’s, there was a certain rage that Sandler was able to carry across, especially while he sang “Somebody Kill Me”, that felt far too contained in Bell’s performance. He didn’t allow himself to take his anger to the next level. I can’t help but agree considering that the scene was done in Robbie’s basement with only the four walls and a sad bridal cake topper as his audience, it’s the perfect moment for a guitar-smashing rage-filled rocker moment.

There were also a number of technical issues with the evening, which I found odd considering this performance was well into the show’s run. Sound was a particular issue as there was a lot of hissing from the microphones and amplified rustling and crackling from clothing and breathing. Through the later half of the first act, it was rather distracting.

There’s still a lot of potential within the show and the impressive background that the cast has. With polishing on the acting and perhaps a few more mics for the ensemble whose words wound up getting lost in the music, this production of The Wedding Singer could be a runaway hit.

Details

  • The Wedding Singer is playing at the Hart House Theatre (7 Hart House Circle).
  • Performances run until January 25 from Wednesday to Saturday at 8 pm, with 2 pm Saturday matinees during the third week.
  • Tickets are $28 for adults, $17 for seniors, and $15 for students.
  • Bonus $10 student tickets are available for Wednesday performances and $17 alumni tickets for Thursdays.
  • Tickets are available online or by calling the U of T box office at 416 978 8849.

Photo of Scott Farley, Ashley Gibson, Isaac Bell, Romina Cortina, Howard Davis and Matt Pilipiak by Daniel DiMarco.

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