by Paula Kaplan-Reiss

Everybody loves a wedding, watching a couple in love get married and dance to their favorite tunes sung by the perfect wedding singer. SLOC Musical Theatre presents “The Wedding Singer” in Schenectady, NY, showcasing the wedding singer, Robbie Hart (Brendan Brierly) and the innocent waitress, Julia Sullivan (Allison McArdle) hoping to find love and marriage, while making poor partner choices along the way. Many remember the 1998 film upon which this musical is based, starring young Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. The original Tony nominated Broadway production followed in 2006. SLOC has some tough acts to follow, but makes a valiant attempt to entertain and bring joy to their production.

The audience is greeted with a drab set, designed by Adam M. Coons, of a wedding hall, where the wedding band performs and the guests dance. This minimally decorated hall challenges the cast to bring excitement to the opening number. Immediately, we see the 80’s style clothing and big hair styles. Hart’s fellow band members, George (Francesco C. Archina) and Sammy (Brandon True Argento) wear long wild wigs, while, for some reason, Robbie’s hair remains short. Yet all three have wonderful chemistry and comic timing as longtime band mates.

 Robbie is happy singing to a wedding couple, while announcing his own upcoming nuptials to Linda (Emily Nicole Fuller). Julia, a waitress working the wedding, is hoping for a proposal from her boyfriend, Glen Guglia (Bill Getzeiler), but wonders if he will follow through. She and Robbie connect as he attempts to write a love song for Linda, and Julia is utterly charmed. 

The following day, Robbie is stood up at the altar, reading a note sung by his fiancée, dressed like Madonna with hints of Marilyn Monroe, confessing she has changed her mind. Robbie is devastated and left to cope with this loss, but continues to sing for other happy couples as he returns to his job. He loses his zest for love and happiness and inappropriately conveys his cynicism and anger to an unsuspecting bride and groom.

 Julia, however, receives her proposal, and believes her future is set with her wealthy fiancée. Yet, she remains sympathetic to and concerned for Robbie. The audience is left to wonder how these two will wind up together as the story unfolds.

Brierly, as Robbie, is a strong singer in this cast. While his opening number does not immediately grab the audience, his performance continues to grow throughout the production. He is funny and confident, displaying anger, sadness, joy and love. He moves well, and the audience roots for him.

McArdle, as Julia, is competent in her role. Her voice is sweet and her manner is sincere. She and Brierly harmonize well together. Somehow, I wanted more from her as we need to see her charisma and sympathize for her unfulfilled love life. Her funniest scene is with her mother, Angie (Rachel Gentile), who is the perfect doting Mom and brings her small comic role to life.

Michaela Torres, as Julia’s fellow waitress and friend Holly, brings zest and charm to her sexually comfortable and assertive role. Her provocative and outrageous outfits and thigh highs, designed by LuAnn Rees, are, at times, distracting from her comedic performance, and serve as a sharp contrast to Julia’s conservative clothing.

Getzeiler’s Glen Guglia, as the lothario fiancée to Julia, gives a fiendish performance, reminiscent in looks and evilness to Jafar in Aladdin. While he makes us laugh, we have no idea why either is attracted to the other, nor why both want to get married. This remains a flaw in the script or the direction by Stephen Foust. 

The most exciting performer is Erica Buda-Doran as Rosie, Robbie’s grandmother. While dressed in the best 80’s costumes, she has perfect comic delivery, a wonderful voice, excellent dance moves, all with a twinkle in her eye and a wink to the audience.

The ensemble is large and energetic, sometimes overwhelming the stage. The director might have considered a smaller, tighter group, enabling choreographer, Betsy Foust to create more varied interesting dance numbers. 

 A few anachronistic choices like a proposal between two women and Pride clothing on the gender fluid George make little sense in this 80’s show.

Sound by Katie Fitzsimmons is uneven due to mics going in and out. Hopefully, this will be rectified. The band, conducted by John Carroll, however, plays wonderfully.

Lighting, designed by Michael Gatzendorfer, can be shadowy in some scenes, and overly bright and in the audience’s eyes in others.

The Wedding Singer is all about making the right commitment for a lifetime of happiness. While the cast commits energy to a lengthy show filled with song and dance, we feel the bumps along the road to happily ever after. Eventually, we can rejoice. After all, who doesn’t love a wedding?

SLOC Musical Theatre presents The Wedding Singer, music by Matthew Sklar, book by Chad Beguelin and Tim Herlihy, lyrics by Chad Beguelin, directed by Stephen Foust from March 17-26, 2023 at 427 Franklin Street, Schenectady, NY. Musical director John Carroll, choreographer Betsy Foust, producer John Meglino. CAST; Brendan Brierley as Robbie Hart, Brandon True Argento as Sammy, Francesco C. Archina as George, Allison McArdle as Julia Sullivan, Michaela Torres as Holly, Bill Geltzeiler as Glen Guglia, Erica Buda-Doran as Rosie, Emily Nicole Fuller as Linda, Rachel Gentile as Angie. ENSEMBLE: Lexy Brown, Alex Dinardi, Carolyn Frantz, Tara Fox, Rachel Gentile, Sarah Goodell Gesio, Justin Nadal, Taylor Ramsey, Ashley Schuliger, Cameron Clarke Stevens, and Sammy Rose Wilson. MUSICIANS: Sean Obach on keyboard, Robert Ackerman on drums, William Fredette on bass, and CJ Hughes on electric guitar. TECH: Ste designer Adam M. Coons, lighting designer Michael Gatzendorfer, sound designer Katie Fitzmorris, costume designer LuAnn Rees, hair and make-up designer Elizabeth Sherwood-Mack, properties designer Melissa Peterson, stage managers James Brown and Beth Swallow.

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