Theatre Review: ‘The Wedding Singer’ at Atlanta Lyric Theatre

Atlanta Lyric Theatre is producing the musical “The Wedding Singer,” directed by Jessica De Maria, running through Feb. 24.

Based on the 1998 film with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore and the 2006 Broadway musical, the show features songs by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin with a book by Mr. Beguelin and Tim Herlihy. The witty choreography is by Ricardo Aponte, who also assistant directed. Musical direction is by Paul Tate.

I had not seen the film or the musical, and I must say that “The Wedding Singer” is an unexpected jolt of color, fun, dance, and romance. I don’t know if the Lyric planned it around Valentine’s Day, but it fits very well. In these tense political times, its determined lightheartedness is most welcome.

And I will say at the outset that this production features some of Atlanta’s best performers, and that is a delight. The title character is Robbie Hart, played by Chase Peacock (unforgettable in “Miss Saigon”); Robbie is a would-be rock star who makes a living by playing wedding receptions in Ridgefield, New Jersey. He’s a romantic, but he’s left standing at the altar of his own wedding by his fiancée Linda (Alison Brannon Wilhoit), who decides he lacks the drive to be a rock star.

Robbie’s in despair, down in the dumps (he’s literally in a dumpster at one point). His ray of hope is the very sweet Julia (Rosa K. Campos), but she, unfortunately, has a boyfriend named Glen Guglia (Maxim Gukhman), who’s a very slick Wall Street junk bonds whiz kid. And we learn that he’s quite the incurable ladies’ man—even if he has a girlfriend—or wife. This troubles Robbie, for he and Julia have an immediate attraction to each other.

Robbie’s pals Sammy (Skye Passmore) and George (J. Koby Parker) try to bolster him up, and they are cheery and funny, particularly Mr. Passmore, who shows an unexpected comic flair. Incidentally, Robbie lives with his uninhibited Grandma Rosie (Katherine Michelle Tanner), who’s an absolute stitch. She’s determined that Robbie will not mope for long, and he does mope (“Somebody Kill Me”).

Julia’s cousin and best friend Holly (Audrey Layne Crocker) and her mother Angie (Lilliangina Quinones) add to the festivities. By the way, any show that ends in Las Vegas with a group of impersonators (Billy Idol, Tina Turner, Cyndi Lauper, Nancy Reagan, and Imelda Marcus) who help rescue Julia from the dastardly Glen does not take itself seriously—and herein lies the delight of “The Wedding Singer.” I think this delectable pastiche of a show could be used as a treatment for depression.

Ricardo Aponte’s choreography is a tremendous boon to the evening; bravo to him and his dancers. And I must say it’s the sheer exuberance and talent of the cast that make this rather formulaic musical play spring to life. Every actor I’ve mentioned is exceptional, from Mr. Peacock’s smooth-voiced Robbie to the delightfully earnest Ms. Campos to the smooth-as-glass Mr. Gukhman—wonderful to have him back on the Atlanta stage after extended performing at sea on ocean liners.

There’s a large, vivacious ensemble, and I cannot list their names here; but their names are in the program, which you’ll see when you go.

Cheers to Ms. De Maria, who is making her Atlanta Lyric debut as a director; it’s a splendid one.

“The Wedding Singer” may not appear on any list of the top ten musicals of all time, but as a welcome, breezy breath of fresh air, it pleases enormously.

For tickets and information, visit atlantalyrictheatre.com.

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