The Wedding Singer, book by Chad Beguelin and Tim Herlihy, based on the 1998 film script by Tim Herlihy. Lyrics by Chad Beguelin. Music by Mathew Sklar ("Grow Old With You," and "Somebody Kill Me" - music and lyrics by Adam Sandler and Tim Herlihy). Choreographed by Sebastiani Romagnolo. Directed by Erin Spears Ledford. Reviewed by J. Peter Bergman.
Emma Flynn, Conor Fallon, Kate Zulauf; photo: Erin Spears Ledford
"Not that kind of thing."
Meg Dooley, Connor Hubbard; photo: Erin Spears Ledford
Here's my fervent prayer: "Don't do this show again!!!" There are worse shows, I'm sure, but this one is in heavy defeat getting to be much above the bottom of the pile. What makes it worse is watching some very talented people trying to elevate the material by acting, singing and dancing through it like it matters. Such is the case with this cast at the Mac-Haydn Theatre: so much talent! So little to work with!
Meg Dooley is even repeating her triumph of poor taste material over excellent abilities, playing Grandma Rosie; she performed this role two seasons ago at the Theater Barn in nearby New Lebanon. She is very good with the bad taste talk and even better with the song "Move That Thing" which is her duet with band member George, the androgynous near-counter-tenor played by Connor Hubbard. They are too good to be just who and what they are, but in this show blatant is everything and this number does blow the roof off sanity.
I know it's meant to be funny, but my sense of the ridiculous goes awry when ridiculous goes incredulous.
Kate Zulauf and Connor Fallon; photo: Erin Spears Ledford
Waitress Julia loves two men, Wall Streeter Glen Guglia, and wedding singer Robbie Hart. Robbie is involved with Linda Sluthammer (not her name, but an appropriate appelation nevertheless) but is in love with Julia who realizes just in time that marrying her straightlaced executive would make her Julia Gulya, so she opts out of her Las Vegas elopement. Not even half a dozen Celebrity Impersonators can convince her to do otherwise. Luckily Robbie has pursued them to the all-time craptown and is on hand to take up his own "I do" to "Grow Old With You." Yes, that's the story. I've done the spoiler thing. Sorry.
Conor Fallon is a wonderful singer, musician and actor. He is handsome and charming and in a better show would be much more likeable, desirable and fun to watch. His character, created for Adam Sandler to play in the movie, is pure Sandler without the odd quirks that make him so dependably unpleasant. Instead we have a talented guy playing sad sack in a show that celebrates mediocrity.
As Julia there is the delectably ordinary Kate Zulauf who actually elevates the stock character of woman on the edge to a better place with her talent, good looks, and pluck. Yes, pluck. Getting through this role without a single grimace takes genuine pluck. Mary Tyler Moore had pluck. Zulauf has pluck galore and for this character pluck works as well as anything. At least you can like this Julia.
Glen Guglia is well played by Nathaniel Dolquist. The character is something of a cheating, rotting, no-goodnick with wealth. He isn't charming, or likeable and Dolquist puts that across in every scene. He is clearly no competition for Robbie Hart from his first scene to his last.
Then there's Linda, the girl who starts the show by leaving Robbie at the altar only to return when he's at his emotional low-point. She is perfectly played by Maggie Eley. Sadly this role won't do much for her career, good as she is in the part. Emma Flynn makes a tiny gem out of Holly, the other waitress and erstwhile girlfriend of the third band member, a man with hair so odd he resembles the Flying Nun, Sammy. He is played with actual humility by Jonah Hale. These two do wonderful work in roles that are largely sympathetic.
Sebastiani Romagnolo's choreography almost saves the show, especially in combination with the turntable stage. Dave Maglione and the band play their brains out along with the stage-band trio and the music rocks even though it never rolls out a single memorable tune. Bethany Marx provides costumes that are almost as hideous as the characters wearing them and Andrew Gmoser pulls out all the stops providing dance club lighting that leaves you dizzy.
Erin Spears Ledford's debut directing job with this show is not good enough to save a maddeningly stupid script and she works hard to make that possible. All of her hard work goes to naught, zero, even though she clearly knows how to make pretty pictures out of ugly subjects.
I am usually proud of the Mac-Haydn team for their work on almost anything these days, but not even the estimable John Rando could save the original production so why should the talent assembled in Chatham, NY make it any better than it is. They've given the show energy. That's the best thing I can say.
The Wedding Singer plays at the Mac-Haydn Theatre, 1925 Route 203, Chatham, NY through August 19. For information and tickets go to Machaydntheatre.org or call the box office at 518-392-9292.