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The first national tour of The Wedding Singer, produced by NETworks Presentations LLC and presented March 28-30 by Broadway Series South in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium, is a thoroughly entertaining PG-13-rated romantic comedy with an invigorating 1980s-style rock score, comprised of mostly forgettable songs by composer Matthew Sklar and lyricist Chad Beguelin. The sassy script by Beguelin and Tim Herlihy, who wrote the screenplay for the 1985 Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore film, is the answer to the classic Wendy’s TV commercial question, “Where’s the beef?”
The tomfoolery of The Wedding Singer will charm Triangle audiences, who probably won’t find themselves whistling the show’s tunes as they exit the theater. The high-octane musical staging of Broadway director John Rando and choreographer Rob Ashford, robustly recreated on tour by director Paul Stancato and choreographer Chris Bailey, combines with the cleverly conceived sets of Scott Pask and the flashy Eighties fashions by Gregory Gale to make The Wedding Singer look as good as it sounds. The artistry of lighting designer Brian MacDevitt, musical supervisor/coordinator/conductor John Mezzio and a small but energetic orchestra, and sound designer Lucas J. Corrubia, Jr. also enhance the show’s visual and aural appeal.
Merritt David Janes and Erin Elizabeth Coors give charismatic characterizations as two incurable romantics: wedding singer Robbie Hart and banquet waitress Julia Sullivan. They make a cute couple and are perfect for each other, but take a long, long time to shed their unsuitable significant others: Robbie’s oversexed one-time fiancée Linda (Andrea Andert), who drops him like a hot rock when his rock-star career goes in the toilet, and Julia’s unscrupulous fiancé Glenn Guglia (Mark Raumaker), who makes mountains of money from shady deals on Wall Street and cheats on Julia every chance he gets.
Merritt Janes is delightful as Robbie, and Erin Coors is charming as Julia. Both are quick with quips and sure-handed with the love songs that chronicle their growing attraction to each other. Andrea Andert has a great voice and transforms her cameo as Linda into a high-wattage star turn, and Mark Raumaker is likewise effective in bringing his handsome but slimy character’s least attractive qualities to the surface for all to see.
Penny Larsen and John Jacob Lee give scene-stealing performances as Robbie’s Grandma Rosie and Robbie’s gender-bending keyboard player and vocalist George (a merciless sendup of Boy George); Justin Jutras is a hoot as Robbie’s laidback best friend bass player Sammy; and Sarah Peak is a scream as Julia’s short sexpot cousin and Sammy’s former girlfriend Holly, whose shameless pass at Robbie fails to connect.
The members of the show’s exuberant Ensemble, all of whom perform multiple roles, also have their moments in the spotlight. Perhaps the funniest of them is a hilarious scene in which the unloved and unlovely “mutants at table 9” — Tommy Martinez as the Bad Haircut Guy, Rebecca Lynn Miller as the Sideburns Lady, Kevin Faraci as the Loser Guy, and Carrie Cimma as the Large Lady — finally get their chance to be seen and heard on a wedding day devoted to their more beautiful friends and relatives.
Although mostly set in Ridgefield, NJ, with brief detours to Wall Street during the height of the junk-bond boom, The Wedding Singer also gets bellylaughs when Julia and Glenn elope to Las Vegas, with Robbie in frantic pursuit and determined to sabotage their wedding in a kitschy chapel chock-full of hilarious celebrity impersonators, including James Bould, Kevin Faraci, Susan Leilani Gearou, Kimberly Marable, Rebecca Lynn Miller, Rebecca Riker, and Jason Samuel.
The Wedding Singer may not have the most memorable music and lyrics, but Wednesday night’s Broadway Series South patrons thoroughly enjoyed the comic hijinks of this Tony Award®-nominated Broadway version of the high-grossing Hollywood film. Indeed, they rewarded Merritt David Janes and Erin Elizabeth Coors, a strong supporting cast, and a crackerjack creative team with a standing ovation.
Broadway Series South presents The Wedding Singer Friday, March 28, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, March 29, at 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, March 30, at 2 and 7 p.m. in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 East South St., Raleigh, North Carolina. $27-$68. Progress Energy Center Box Office: 919/831-6060 or through the presenter's website. Student Discount Program: Students with valid ID may purchase any remaining seats for any show, except the Saturday evening performance, for $20 each at the Progress Energy Center Box Office, starting one hour before show time. Group Rates (for parties of 20 or more): 919/857-4565 or email@example.com. Note: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh, NC (http://www.artsaccessinc.org/) will audio-describe the 8 p.m. March 29th performance. Broadway Series South: http://www.broadwayseriessouth.com/. The Tour: http://www.theweddingsingerontour.com/. Internet Movie Database: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120888/. Internet Broadway Database: http://www.ibdb.com/show.asp?ID=402889.