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With funky costumes and a rock star bride-to-be, Central Piedmont Community College's production of The Wedding Singer was quite the showstopper. Multi-talented and full of vigor, CPCC's cast was sharp and delivered nothing other than your ideal musical.
Meet Robbie (J. Michael Beech), aka The Wedding Singer, whose revelation of his festering love for someone other than his (now-ex) fiancée has created quite the obstacle course. After being dumped at the altar by Linda (Grace Nelson), who accuses Robbie of giving up on his dream of becoming a rockstar, Robbie struggles to understand and express his newfound feelings for Julia (Lindsey Schroeder), a waitress he meets working a wedding gig. As their friendship blossoms, Julia, who is engaged to a Wall Street broker named Glen (Cameron Drayton), faces her own difficulties of the heart as she expands her idea of what love means to her. As she realizes that she truly loves Robbie, further complications and a return of Linda leave Julia stuck deciding whether her true love truly loves her, and Robbie searching for what path will make him happiest in life.
As Robbie, Beech took on the charismatic persona of a typical wedding singer, lighting the audience up with his energy. Whether singing a song filled with rage or with joy, he carried the audience through the heartiness of his voice. Taking the audience through every phase of Robbie's adversities and playing into his character's confidence that being a lover of love would someday reign supreme, Beech didn't shy away from the vulnerable emotions of unwarranted heartbreak. In fact, Beech used Robbie's passions to express the ideal perspective of an optimistic amateur whose dreams were too big not to be attempted.
Schroeder stepped into Julia's ambiguously empathetic character and did not hold back. From using her charm to sway Robbie into going wedding shopping with her, taking the show to its climax by passionately kissing Robbie, or finally accepting her truth and going with her gut instincts as a woman, Julia spoke to the frustrating thought processes of any woman learning to navigate the uncertainties of partnership.
Wig designer and stylist Barbi VanSchaik gets the gold star for Linda's blonde mullet, which drew me right into the show's '80s-era setting. Adopting the true essence of a wannabe rockstar's wife, Linda sported an exotic tutu and white corset as her bridal gown, thanks to costume shop manager Emily McCurdy and stitchers Betsy Blackmore, Kathleen Kostourous, and Summer Schroter. Together, the ensemble made a statement: Linda is her name, and heartbreak is her game. Dumping Robbie at the altar, Linda cut no corners expressing her reason for leaving Robbie was because of his inability to lead the life of a rock band lead singer. With hair-blowing fans, colorful lights, and a Grammy-worthy exit, Nelson gave the audience a taste of what a true rock star wedding should look like. Robbie, on the other hand, stumbling to move forward with his life, moves into the basement his Grandma Rosie's (Karen Christensen) house.
Contrasting that heartbreak, Julia spends a night on the town wrapped in the arms of her dazzling boyfriend, Glen, who prides himself on bringing in the big bucks. Wooing Julia and the audience with his captivating charm, Drayton poured into Glen's role as a money-hungry, slimy opportunist. He made the scandals of his materialistic character look so accessible that I noticed no separation from the world of the play. This portrayal greatly supported Julia's anxious lovebug jitters as Glen pops the question.
Robbie, still reeling and recovering from his breakup, expresses newfound rage at his next wedding gig, appropriately accentuated by blaringly green lighting:
"But it was all bullshit,
It was a goddamn joke.
And when I see you, Linda,
I hope you fucking choke."
The next thing you know, Robbie is shoved headfirst into the dumpster after ruining Donnatella (Kiara Carol) and Shane's (Tony Richardson) wedding. Leave it to Julia to extend her empathetic nature and comfort him out of the dumpster. This was the moment they knew nothing would be the same. Julia lets the cat out the bag and asks Robbie to sing at her wedding. And when he finally sees her in the dress she chooses, he is lost for words.
I can't go on without mentioning Christensen's stellar comedic timing as Grandma Rosie. Never to disappoint, Rosie came in under a funky, disco ball set as hot and hip as ever, demanding that the live orchestra (Bill Congdon, John Sharp, John Hogan, Anna Stadlman, and Will Hack) give her a beat. "Forget rocking chairs, I rock microphones...The roof might have snow but that don't mean there ain't a fire down below." This was the laugh of the night.
Reminding the audience that it's never too late to move that thang, Robbie works up the gall to speak from the heart and let love lead. As he says, "Love will always find you," and in this case, it found both him and Julia on the day they kissed. Maybe the heart knows what it wants after all.
This show is a reminder that when you wake up and realize the one you want is right in front of your eyes, it's never too late to move that thang! "When life gives you garbage, use it to climb." You'll be out of there in no time.
The Wedding Singer is a beautiful show. Congratulations to CPCC Theatre and their multitalented cast and crew on a phenomenal production!
The Wedding Singer continues through Sunday, November 7. For more details on this production, please view the sidebar.