‘The Wedding Singer’ was bedazzled.
These days when most people think about Adam Sandler, they picture a washed-up actor starring in bad comedies that go straight to Netflix. But back in the late ’90s/early 2000s, it was hard to escape the comedy superstar. First released in 1998, the movie ‘The Wedding Singer’ was one such smash hit for Sandler and co. earning $123 million at the box office. So, in 2006 when Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin attempted to turn the show into a musical, it was expected to go equally gangbusters. Sadly, it didn’t. Reviews constantly criticised the show, saying it lacked depth and was purely a commercial venture.
But 15 years later, from the moment the curtains rose on David Venn’s production of ‘The Wedding Singer’ at Home of the Arts (HOTA) on the Gold Coast, the audience was transported back to the 1980s, with all the spectacle and wonder of the era of Reaganomics excess. Were the initial critics right; is this show pure commercial junk food made to cash in on an existing IP? Yes, obviously, but sometimes all you want to see is the theatrical equivalent of a Big Mac, and ‘The Wedding Singer’ is the finest theatrical Big Mac you can find on the market. With its big ’80s characters, bigger ’80s costumes and the biggest ’80s choreography seen this side of Olivia Newton-John’s ‘Physical’ video, ‘The Wedding Singer’ is definitely a commercial spectacle, but it’s a commercial spectacle at its finest.
When performing a show as over-the-top and camp as ‘The Wedding Singer’, you need a strong ensemble of performers who can be both as over the top as the text requires and equally grounded in something real for the audience to hook into. Thankfully, the cast more than delivered. Christian Charisiou and Teagan Wouters led the way as Robbie Hart and Julia Sullivan, respectively. They managed to bring depth and create three-dimensional characters out of our leads, that in lesser hands could easily be read as annoying and whiny. On the other end of the spectrum, we had Stephen Mahy and Nadia Komazec as Glen Guglia and Holly, respectively, both giving the campest supporting performances this side of Queen’s ‘I Want to Break Free’ video.
Part of what made this show stand above other confectionary-filled spectacles were Kim Bishop’s costumes. Full of shoulder pads, taffeta dresses with seas of sequins and perms as high as the unfallen Berlin Wall. Each costume was equally ridiculously over-the-top and authentic to the era. This helped create a world both silly and real. A recap of the costumes wouldn’t be complete without a brief mention of the wedding dresses, and let me say: there haven’t been dresses like that this side of Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin’ video.
More than the costumes and the performances, what made ‘The Wedding Singer’ truly special was Michael Ralph’s choreography. He managed to keep this high-octane show moving with moves inspired from everything 1980s, from the movie ‘Flash Dance’ to the style of Michael Jackson. Each and every number was well-considered and appropriate for both spectacle and reality.
‘The Wedding Singer’ is clearly banking on audiences’ love for the original movie and if the audience member behind me incessantly chatting about, “Oh this is my favourite bit from the film” throughout the show is anything to go by, this production is doing its job. Having somehow missed the film up until now, I can say ‘The Wedding Singer’ is fun, silly and shouldn’t at all be taken seriously. Is it High Art? No. But for what it is, it is sensational.
Photography by Nicole Cleary