The Wedding Singer – Bord Gais Theatre – Review by Fran Winston
Runs until March 11th
7.30pm nightly except Friday March 10th with shows at 5pm and 8.30pm. Matinee shows Wednesday 8th and Saturday 11th at 2.30pm
If you lived through the 80s it probably didn’t seem that great – cold war, high unemployment, miners strikes, shoulder pads, mullets, stonewashed denim – but in hindsight and sprinkled with a dose of nostalgia the era has become big business and rather charming. Adam Sandler was actually ahead of the game when it came to this as he released his movie The Wedding Singer back in 1998 (can you believe it’s nearly 20 years old).
I’m working on the premise that everyone has seen the movie. If you haven’t, spoiler alert. Set in 1985, it told the tale of Robbie Hart who (surprise) works as a Wedding singer (actually THE wedding singer who is hugely in demand) and has somewhat missed the boat on rock stardom. When he is jilted at the altar himself, he takes it badly and has a complete meltdown but through it all waitress Julia is there to try and help him get back on the horse. She really wants him to sing at her wedding to Glen, a fast talking flash something, something money guy a la Michael Douglas in Wall Street (I’ve seen the film, I’ve seen the musical and I still couldn’t tell you what he does. Hedge funds or insider trading or some stocks thing but it doesn’t matter.) But – as is the way with these rom-coms – Robbie and Julia clearly have a spark except they can’t see it. Cue lots of misunderstanding and hilarity on the road to their happy ending.
The film is backed up ably by a stomping 80s soundtrack but obviously licensing these classics would be expensive so for the musical experience there are a rake of new songs written. That said when I say some of these tracks are just the right side of plagiarism, I’m not joking. You will have total familiarity with these songs even though you’ve never heard them before. This is not a complaint. It actually really works and only adds to the humour. I thought I would miss the classic songs but two tracks in and you don’t even notice.
This is a high octane adaptation of an extremely funny and sweet movie and it works so well. This is thanks in no small part to the leads Jon Robyns and Cassie Compton who play Robbie and Julia. Their energy is infectious and it is impossible not to get swept up in their story. That said everybody in this cast seems to be having so much fun. Ruth Madoc is a joy as Robbie’s grandmother (although I kept wishing she would say Hi-Di-Hi at some point). The set is fantastic and used really well. Touring show sets are a big bugbear of mine as they can often be quite lazy but this is fantastic. The only thing I felt was out of place was Nadia Forde as Linda – the woman who jilts Robbie at the altar. Her singing voice isn’t as strong as the rest of the cast and her appearance screamed of tokenism to get bums on seats. This local “name” casting for small roles is fairly common but doesn’t always work. It doesn’t work here.
That aside this is huge fun. Although the songs are new they are familiar and you will be tapping your feet and bopping along to it. It is hugely funny, taking wry digs at all that was good and bad about the 80s and it plays up its clichés and stereotypes with aplomb. My guest had never seen the film, had no expectations and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s just a rip roaring roller coaster of fun. Yes, it’s far from perfect but it leaves you with a smile on your face. And it leaves you feeling hopeful – because let’s face it, if a guy who lives in his grandmother’s basement and makes a living singing covers at weddings can win at life, we all can! If you want a little joy in your life check this out before the run ends.