By Guest Reviewer Wendy Wright, photo by Aaron C Wade
I’ll start by saying that I saw a rehearsal of this production of The Wedding Singer about a week ago and the growth in that time has been remarkable. Of course it’s not surprising that the addition of all of the technical elements, a full band and an audience would make a difference, but what I didn’t expect was to see a performance from the leading actor that would be worthy of any New York stage.
If you are one of the handful of people unfamiliar with the Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore movie upon which the show is based, the year is 1985. The hair is big, collars are up, and greed is good. Rock-star wannabe Robbie Hart (Chip Mezo) is New Jersey’s favorite wedding singer and the life of the party—until his own fiancée leaves him at the altar. Shot through the heart, Robbie makes every wedding as disastrous as his own. Things look up when he meets Julia (Kimberly Elliot), a winsome waitress, but she’s about to marry a Wall Street shark. Unless Robbie can change his tune and pull off the performance of the decade, the girl of his dreams will be gone forever.
Mezo’s performance as Hart is a masterclass in extraordinary vocals and amazing comic timing. I can honestly say that having seen and been in dozens of Ann Arbor Civic Theater musicals over the past 30 years, he may be the most talented performer to ever grace their stage.
That isn’t to take away from the rest of the cast. Elliot as his love interest Julia is a vocal powerhouse in her own right. Daniel Hazlett and Chris Joseph as Robbie’s bandmates Sammy and George are also wonderful and the way the three play off each other is a joy to watch. Becca Nowak as Julia’s bestie Holly and Salina Burke as Robbie’s runaway bride are appropriately slutty and bitchy, respectively and Rich Roselle and Brandon Cave give hysterical cameo performances in multiple roles.
Director, Ron Baumanis stages the show with his usual attention to detail and pacing, first time A2CT Musical Director, Jim Territo leads a wonderful and restrained 80’s rock band and the choreography by Patricia Mazzola will have many suffering from flashbacks…or should I say “Flashdances”(the second act opening number is particularly clever).
For better (and sometimes worse) Molly Borneman’s costumes will remind you of every 80’s fashion faux pas you can think of (in the best possible way), while Pat Johnson’s first act ending special effect brings the house down in more ways than one.
A2CT’s The Wedding Singer continues at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre on University of Michigan’s Central Campus through Sunday June 5th. Tickets at a2ct.org or at the door.
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