I came to The Wedding Singer with no preconceptions, having never seen this 2006 Broadway stage musical or the 1998 Hollywood rom-com on which it is based.
A cloud of ignorance likewise encompassed the identities of all involved with it – including the songwriters Matthew Sklar (music) and Chad Beguelin (lyrics) – and indeed the very concept of a wedding singer.
On to the clean slate I started with were quickly inscribed impressions entirely favourable to this heart-tugging, tuneful and often hilarious show, and the amazingly talented Musical Youth Company of Oxford delivering it.
That we were in for sure-footed entertainment from director Nicola Blake was evident in the opening number, showing us a high-profile nuptials gig for singer Robbie (Kiran Double) and wannabe rock-star bandmates Sammy (Daniel North) and George (Isaac Jackson), a look- and sound-alike for a ‘Boy’ of that name.
Besides the impressive singing talents of all performers (under musical director Dan Knight), we relish at once the role of design (Ms Blake again), lighting (Ashley Bale), costumes (Anna North) and choreography (Jess Townsend) in creating a simulacrum of the 1980s in which the action is set.
Robbie’s own wedding quickly follows – a disaster in the no-show of tough-cookie fiancée Linda (Molly Mullins) who bursts from the wedding cake (in everyone’s imagination) to deliver her high-kicking, hilarious Note of Apology.
Happily for him and romance, waitress Julie (Amber Potter) awaits, the spark of love evident at their first meeting.
Alas for Robbie, he’s set for some waiting too, along with the audience, as his gal takes an age to recognise that ghastly city shark fiancé Glen (Ioan Ooshuizen) isn’t for her, as his surname should have indicated. Julia Guglia!
In the meantime, Robbie has endured a no-action date with Julia’s good-sort pal Holly (Ellis Lovett) – soon to turn to doting Sammy – and rejected a reunion raunchily proposed by his ex Linda during her second, highly acrobatic, comic number, Let Me Come Home.
Sarah Coumbe as Robbie’s groovy gran and Grace Noble as Julia’s Partonesque mum (looks-wise) show MYCO can do old, too.
What a treat to be able to review this show. I was made so welcome by Liz Nicholson and other adults of the group and it was clear to me that their passion is also the passion of the young people that make up the group. My first words are therefore for the large group of supporters who ensure the success of MYCO and therefore make it possible for these young people to really shine and fulfil their hopes and dreams for the future. Congratulations to you all.
Director Nicola Blake clearly had a really strong idea of how this show would work which was essential with such a large cast. Nicola brought a really dynamic and vibrant feel to this production which played at a really fast pace using the space to move the cast around seamlessly and effortlessly.I liked the way that the cast were angled towards the different banks of the tiered seating which allowed space for everyone to be seen and to shine. The multi-level scaffold set also designed by Director Nicola allowed multiple entrances and playing areas which was essential for a relatively small playing area in this modern theatre. Lots of thought had gone into the set allowing for a small screen to playout a time reverse film which set the scene for the 80’s era. Small banners set as needed on the middle tier ensured scenes could be played out without disrupting the floor area but were enough for the audience to know they were in a different place. The upper level was reserved for the musicians. Any show offers up challenges and opportunities, no performing space is the same, and Nicola devised some very creative solutions such as how to get Robbie in the dumpster and the entrance of Linda in the cake – certainly that was surprising as well as funny.
The light floor was very emotive of the 80’s and was used to very good effect especially in the opening scenes with ever changing colours and patterns. The lighting was designed by Ashley Blake who was assisted by Tom Forster. Overall the lighting was very effective and there was some excellent spotting throughout when required. The main scenes were well lit but never seemed overly bright with the addition of some lovely colour lighting throughout. The background colours and shapes complimented the scenes but were never distracting for the audience.
Musical Director Dan Knight and his team of rehearsal pianists had clearly worked hard with all the cast as all musical numbers were brilliantly performed by the talented principals and ensemble. The sound created by the band melded wonderfully with the voices to create a wonderfully rich sound. At no point did the band overcome the voices. This was a great collaboration with the sound team Indi Brodley and Fabiolla Ingabire. The sound team managed all the mic’s really well with no issues on the night I attended. Some of the un-mic’ed ensemble were a little quiet at times but there was a lovely musicality to the large ensemble numbers.
I am in awe of the costume team led by Anna North with over 50 cast members to dress in a multitude of individual 80’s style costumes and some very “known” characters to dress. There was such a variety of style and colour to create a wonderfully vibrant wardrobe for all the cast. I particularly liked the style used for “All About the Green” and for the zombies which was very atmospheric. The hair and make-up team, led by Craig Smith, completed the look for the cast. Of particular note is the “boy” look for George, the age-up makeup for Rosie and the styling for all the lookalikes that appeared towards the end of the show. I loved all the hair styles especially Sammy’s “flock of seagulls”. Where wigs were used they were well styled and looked after.
There was a creative use of props large and small co-ordinated by Petrina Needham and Gillian Blake and I was especially impressed by the use of the pre-set table tops in the restaurant scene. Stage manager Julie Wells and her team ensured that all the scenery changes happened smoothly, again making use of all the entrances to avoid any clashes. Some of the scene changes used the cast and everyone involved had been well briefed and the choreography involved in going from the shop to the beauty salon then to the restaurant was really excellent.
Working closely with the Director and the MD, choreographer Jess Townsend really worked her magic to create some wonderful movement throughout. There were so many styles of dance from Rap to Ballet, gymnastics and disco; I loved all of it and I was impressed by the discipline of the cast in the full company numbers where space was limited but everyone was able to fully perform without masking others or stepping on each other’s toes. The opening number “It’s Your Wedding Day” started with such high energy and had the audience smiling right from the start.
I would like to start with the ensemble who played such an important role in this production. The singing and dancing were truly excellent and general stage awareness was very high. There must have been a lot of running around backstage as sometimes it appeared a player exited then they appeared on an upper balcony moments later. Not one person stood out for the wrong reason, energy was high throughout as was the discipline needed to be part of such a successful production. Everyone involved in moving props did so really well, never interrupting the flow of the show even with the large props such as beds, cake etc. With multiple costume changes cues were always executed on time. It was great that many of the ensemble had a smaller role to inhabit as well and I would like to congratulate all of you. I can’t single out individual performances but for me the company excelled in “Casualty of Love” (Zombies), The Bar Mitzva scene, “Saturday night in the City”, “All about the Green” (Suits) and a shout out to the boys in “Single”. I also loved all the proposals in the restaurant – good comic timing from everyone.
Kiran Double (Robby) the world’s best wedding singer. Kiran is a powerful performer and it was really nice to see all the different sides of the character come out through the show. Naively happy at the start, broken when he gets dumped at the alter, angry as he tries to emulate Glen and happy at the end when he gets the girl. There were some very comedic moments and Kiran was able to bring these moments out well, especially in his scenes with Gran and the sex talk! Conversely the dumpster scene was sad and rather poignant, and a highlight was his plaintive “Somebody Kill Me”. Fabulous rounded performance.
Amber Potter (Julia) is a wonderfully expressive young lady with a lovely and tuneful singing voice. In “Someday” I enjoyed the movement with the girls. “Dumpster” is a favourite moment of mine, such a poignant moment – both of these young people performed beautifully. There were so many wonderful moments throughout, Amber created a kind, funny and natural character and connected with the different cast members very well. A real talent.
There were many moments of connection between Robbie and Julia and Kiran and Amber played off each other very convincingly – they both committed to the roles and had great confidence in each other allowing them both to give such wonderful performances. A joy to watch you both.
Ioan Oosthuizan (Glen) must have had great fun playing the sleazy city slicker Glen and you really got the mettle of the character. You managed the timing in the restaurant very well and were fabulously commanding in “All about the Green”. Well done.
Ellis Lovett (Holly) – what a dream part. Ellis played the feisty Holly to the maximum with great singing and dancing as well. Once again an expressive interpretation where we were all quite aware of your feelings throughout. Well done for the onstage change of wardrobe – these things are fraught with danger – singing at the same time, it was impressive. Great energy in “Saturday Night in the City”.
Daniel North (Sammy) – having seen the show several times I was pleased to see this character played strongly from start to finish even though the character really gets to shine more in Act 2. In Act 1 there were some nice moments with George and Robbie as the wedding band. “Right in front of you eyes” was performed brilliantly. Daniel you looked great and well done for sporting the most amazing flock of seagulls hairstyle – commitment to the part is such a great quality.
Isaac Jackson (George) who doesn’t love this character. George is sweet, gentle, kind and ambiguous and that is exactly how Isaac played the character. George is the glue between Robbie and Sammy and this was very clear from Isaac’s portrayal. “George’s Prayer” was sympathetically presented and we all loved the rap with Gran. Another great performance and you looked amazing.
Sarah Coumbe (Rosie) what fun to play such a sassy character and you certainly had some of the best lines. Your scene with Robbie in the bedroom was a classic – you played the scene straight allowing the audience to really appreciate the comedy – and “Move that Thang” was very well performed. There was a change from old gran to rapper gran but maybe this could have been taken a bit further to create a bigger surprise for the audience. I very much enjoyed the “Note” which created a sense of wisdom and relief in the abyss that was Robbie’s world – again you looked great and it was a lovely performance all round.
Molly Mullins (Linda) again a fabulous part to play. Larger than life, confident and energetic is exactly how Molly played her. Everything about Linda was mad including her first entrance in a large cake – a great idea!!. The “Note” was hilarious and “Let me come Home” performed with the conviction of someone who always gets her way.
Grace Noble (Angie) rocked the larger than life 80’s look. Well performed as the mother of Julia. High expectations for her daughter to marry the wealthy and handsome Glen, but didn’t follow her own advice when she had doubts. Nicely acted.
To avoid being boring I would like to add that everyone had really good accents, both for dialogue and singing, great acting skills and characterisation. The best thing was the excitement created and the enormous energy and commitment shown by the whole cast.
I had a wonderful evening as did all the audience, many of whom did not know the show so that made it all the better.
I wish you all the very best for your next shows and especially to those moving on to higher education or pursuing their dreams to drama/stage schools. Have a great time at the NODA London awards and good luck to you all.