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A2CT’s The Wedding Singer: This Robbie Hart Will Certainly Steal Yours (Review) June 3, 2016

Posted by ronannarbor in musical theater, Musicals, Theatre.
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ACT ONE-165 copy

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.

Highly Recommended.

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.

Jayna Katz and Adam Woolsey create fireworks in The Last 5 Years (Review) July 14, 2012

Posted by ronannarbor in musical theater, Musicals, Theatre.
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Those explosions you heard over downtown Jackson the last couple nights have been caused by Jayna Katz and Adam Woolsey blowing the roof off of the Jackson Symphony Orchestra performance space during The Last 5 Years, the Jason Robert Brown two-person musical.

Telling the story of a meeting, a wedding, and a breakup (hers from end to beginning, his from beginning to end), the song-cycle musical is a cult favorite of musical theater folks and a standard repertoire piece across the country. KW Productions/Ann Arbor Musical Theater Works does a spectacular job with their presentation. Performing in the lovely JSO space, the production brings the story to emotional life, backed up by an ever-present orchestra stage center (and they sound superb. Kudos also to sound engineers KJ Rowan and Amanda Mahoney). Conductor/Pianist Lora Knight and her ensemble make beautiful music together.

Artistic director Chip Mezo keeps the affair moving at a swift pace (90 minutes without an intermission) but the true stars of the show are Jayna Katz and Adam Woolsey, who infuse this powder-keg of songs with enough energy to lift the roof. Its hard to review either performance individually  because they are so interdependent on each other — and what they achieve here is spectacular: lilting ballads, bitter drama, and soaring emotion. Jayna has a strong background in musical theater and this performance sends her off to her move to Chicago in spectacular style. Adam has performed locally and in NYC, and was a contestant on American Idol Season 11. Together, they are a force to reckon with, and you should not miss it.

The near-sold out audience leapt to its feet at the conclusion of the show: and if you plan on seeing it, call your reservations in right now…the theater space is small and tickets will surely be gobbled up fast. Word of mouth is spreading like wildfire. Let me put it in print — do not miss this production.

Catch the fireworks two more times: Saturday night July 14th at 8:00, and Sunday the 15th at 3:00. Tickets can be reserved by emailing thelast5years.jso@gmail.com. Tickets are 15.00 at the door. JSO is located at 215 W. Michigan Avenue, downtown Jackson, MI. For you Ann Arborites, thats a short 35 minute drive.