Friday, November 17, 2006

I GUARANTEE THAT LOVE WILL FIND YOU: The Broadway adaptation of The Wedding Singer has a couple of big problems. The first stems from how the adaptation is structured. The show opens with an incredibly fun and high energy number for the whole company called "It's Your Wedding Day," built around a simple hook and beat, and we don't reach that height again in songwriting. There are a number of fun production numbers later on ("Casualty of Love," "Saturday Night In The City," "All About The Green") and a decent ballad ("If I Told You"), but none are particularly memorable from a musical or lyrical standard. By shooting the production's wad early (indeed, a reprise of "Wedding Day" is the finale), it hurts.

The second problem is endemic to the source material. Heroine Julia Sullivan is given a sum total of one personality trait--"adorable." Perhaps this was exacerbated by the fact that the standby for Julia went on tonight rather than the ordinary performer, but while the actress sings nicely and gazes wistfully a lot, there's no "there" there, which makes it difficult to get attached to the character and the relationship. If you're going to make changes to the film script (and changes are made, including a reworked finale and the dropping of many well-known bits, including both "Things that could have been brought to my attention YESTERDAY!" and "I have a microphone, and you don't, so you will listen to every damn word I have to say!"), it should address this structural problem. This problem is made worse by the fact that the wonderful Amy Spanger is relegated to the role of Holly, Julia's slutty buddy, and imbues her role with spark and sass throughout (why hasn't this woman gotten to originate a lead on Broadway yet?). Hell, the show itself recognizes that Julia is kind of boring, giving the big Act I finale number to Holly.

Not all is bad. In addition to Spanger, Stephen Lynch, as Robbie, makes the smart choice and makes Robbie his own rather than trying to play Adam Sandler playing Robbie. Rather than a rageaholic, Lynch's Robbie is more affable and authentic, which could have made the Robbie-Julia relationship more tender if Julia had been given a personality. Felicia Finley, as Robbie's ex, knocks her two numbers (both written as 80s hair metal) out of the park, and the most pleasant surprise is Constantine Maroulis, who plays Robbie's buddy and bassist with just the right amount of winking and sleaze without reaching the point of being loathsome. It's not a perfect musical, but it got my toes tapping and left me smiling, and for those of us who've already seen Hairspray, it's good fun. Expect to see it as a fairly common high school musical choice in 5-6 years--opportunity for big ensemble, no particularly complicated sets needed, and lots of featured roles for guys and girls alike.

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