A suprisingly good night out, despite being a little over-cheesy.
I’ll admit, I went to The Wedding Singer not expecting to be blown away, or to be hit with a set-list of songs that resembled a rip-off Mamma Mia. Based on the 1998 film, the plot follows the highs-and-lows of Robbie Hart as he is dumped, has a faltering band, and falls in love with a waitress, who is already engaged. However, I was pleasantly surprised as an energetic and humourous cast pulled off a great performance full of excellent comic timing, clever set design and actually bearable musical numbers (one of them was actually pretty good!).
Without a doubt, the show was made by its excellent cast. Jon Robyns portrayed the down-on-his-luck wedding singer to a tee, and I found myself sympathising with the character, which is always hard to pull off on the stage. Ray Quinn, made famous for finishing runner-up on the X Factor behind Leona Lewis, was also very impressive. Naturally, he pulled off an excellent vocal in his number ‘Its All About the Green’, but he also adapted well to the no-care attitude of Glen, and managed to present the character in such a way that we laughed with him rather than seeing him as a pantomime villan. The two stand-out performances of the night, though, were Roxanne Pallett (as Holly) and Ruth Madoc (as Rosie). Madoc had the audience in absolute stitches, most of all during her comic number with Samuel Holmes (as George), as she sang about how 60-year-olds can still ‘move that thang’ and shouted out to ‘what all my homies say’.
Pallett, meanwhile, looked like a 20-year old Nicki Minaj and had all the sass to go along with it. She brought forward a headstrong and well-rounded character, and pulled off an impressive vocal in her big number ‘Saturday Night in the City’. Sadly, the only disappointing performance was Cassie Compton as leading woman Julia Sullivan. Though her vocal was impressive, it did not have the umph and force behind it that is really required for the atmosphere and energy of a musical, and it showed. She performed well on the duet numbers with Robbie, including ‘Grow Old With You’, but struggled to capitvate on her solo numbers. A quick word about the musical numbers overall: they were, surpirisngly, not as cheesy and ‘OTT’ as I expected. While of course they had their moments, on the whole they were comical and had great production value, which detracted from their otherwise simplistic nature. Of specific note is ‘Somebody Kill Me’ and ‘Single’ – the blend of music, performance and comedy here would be well adapted by other productions.
The dancing was, also, on the whole impressive. While some slipped out of time, the choreography was on the whole clever and clearly required a lot of energy! I specifically loved Ainsley Hall-Rickets who had a smile on his face during every number, becoming the focus of every number he partook in. The set was also very well constructed, with advertisements for products and bands from the 1980s being used to give the whole show a real sense of authenticity.
The biggest negative of The Wedding Singer is that the show was a little slow to begin with. For the first 20 minutes, I felt like this was going to be painful to watch, but this thankfully vanishes after 20 to 30 minutes. However, the opening certainly needs work. The show could sometimes be a little too ‘cheese’ – I’m not quite sure why people’s heads popped out of cakes, cabinets and toilets at some points, and the gay character George managed to fit more stereotypes than I’ve had hot dinners. It’s a shame as, on the whole, they managed to get the balance right and were comical instead of corny. Still, the moments they overdid it became awkward, especially when there was a song about circumcision, which made no sense and left me confused.
Overall, The Wedding Singer was an enjoyable night out with some excellent musical numbers, some oustanding vocal and comic performances. To put it simply, it’s a show that will make you smile and laugh! There are a few overly corny moments to work on, but that did not detract too much from a well-thought out and well-delivered production.
The Wedding Singer is at the Mayflower Theatre until Saturday (8th April).