14th February 2017
Surely it’s no coincidence that the new tour of The Wedding Singer launched on Valentine’s Day. It’s a show about love, engagement, weddings – or lack of weddings! – and it’s hard to beat for a date night with that special someone. Featuring a boppy pop score and cute romance, the musical centres on the ups and downs, loves and losses of the idealistic Robbie Hart (Jon Robyns), the titular ‘wedding singer’. While director/choreographer, Nick Winston’s, production is fun, frothy, and chock-a-block with tongue-in-cheek humour.
Entering the auditorium, the tone is set by classic 80’s movie trailers (The Goonies, Back to the Future) projected onto the stage. For anyone who remembers the 80’s the affectionate ribbing of the fads and fashions is endearing without being cloyingly nostalgic - (un)fortunately, I just missed out on the decade that taste forgot, but my mum assures me the references were spot on!. Jokes about Dallas and cell phones the size of suitcases, to Thriller-esque choreography are but a few knowing nods to our reminiscence. Improving on the 1998 film, the Billy Idol scene is a hoot and escalates to sheer meta-comic joy as an ensemble of well known ‘fake’ celebs join the climactic action.
The 80’s theming even stretches as far as the score, with several songs reminiscent of tracks from Madonna, Bon Jovi type ‘Hair Rock’ bands, and even The Sugarhill Gang in a thoroughly surreal moment involving Ruth Madoc grinding away to a ‘Rapper’s Delight’ style beat (‘Move That Thang’). Overall, there seems to be about equal measures of quality and filler in Matthew Sklar and Tim Herlihy’s score; some numbers don’t always seem to flow easily from the plot, hence scenes occasionally being a little choppy. However, the show is lifted by gems such as the wistful ‘Someday’, and punchy ‘Casualty of Love’, while the song that has undoubtedly seared itself into my brain is a number that has successfully been transposed from screen to stage, ‘Somebody Kill Me’, a hilarious exercise in post-breakup angsty indulgence. Being familiar with the film, and anticipating what’s coming only makes the song funnier.
The cast is littered with fine performances, notably from a scene-stealing Samuel Holmes as keyboardist, George, and an outrageously full-on Tara Verloop as Robbie’s ex, Linda. Nevertheless, this is Jon Robyns’ show. He’s a solid leading man, and has much more room to shine here than the last production I saw him in, Curve’s Legally Blonde. As Robbie, Robyns showcases his quintuple talents – yep, count ’em: he sings, acts, dances, has comic timing down to a tee, and, to top it off, plays the guitar! The acoustic numbers particularly show off his crystal clear vocals (occasionally the ensemble numbers felt a little drowned out by the band, a sound mixing issue, I assume) while Robyns’ natural likability ensures we root for his and waitress, Julia’s (a sweet Cassie Compton) relationship.
While The Wedding Singer is far from ground-breaking, it’s reassuringly feel-good, like putting on a pair of cosy slippers and settling down in front of a rom-com with a glass of wine and chocolates. This new tour should go down well with audiences as a charming piece of escapism during these cold winter nights and is guaranteed to leave you with a smile on your lips and a spring in your step.
The Wedding Singer plays at Curve, Leicester until 18th February, followed by a nationwide tour. For all tour dates visit http://theweddingsingermusical.co.uk/tour-dates