The Wedding Singer is one of those musicals that is a real people pleaser. The script is well written and funny, the songs are super catchy and it's based on one of Adam Sandler's most well-known films.
Morning Players Theatre Company have gathered together a small-but-mighty cast to bring this show to life at the Cranbourne Community Theatre. Direction by Nick Rees displays some original ideas and concepts which provide a fresh take on a show that has been performed many, many times before. Choreography by Jess Hickey is effective in some places, making use of motion and shape to fill a large stage space with a small cast.
In the starring role of Robbie Hart, Daniel Agar presents quite a different interpretation of the character to Sandler and many others who I have seen perform this role. Agar's performance is quite dry and 'downplayed' which is surprisingly quite appealing. Instead of a larger-than-life Sandler-esque almost slapstick take, Agar's interpretation translates as a young musician who just cannot get a break in life. His comic timing is on point, he plays guitar live (always bonus points) and vocally there is no struggle whatsoever (Somebody Kill Me is a total highlight - which is ironic considering he literally sang it in the dark...but more on that later).
Starring opposite Agar is Mollie Williams in the role of Julia. Williams has a beautiful voice that soars throughout the show. Her chemistry with Agar is jarred slightly by her slightly more 'theatrical' interpretation of her role in opposition to Agar's quite naturalistic performance. Her comic timing is slightly muddied due to a lack in variation in textual interpretation. That being said, Williams is the darling of the show and does perform 'well' - it just pales slightly in terms of realistic relatability next to her co-star.
Cast in a role far older than her real age, Alanah Parkin is an absolute standout as the hip and flamboyant grandmother; Rosie Hart. She is completely convincing as an elderly woman in her physicality, voice and delivery and has exceptional comic timing. Other highlights include James Dale as Sammy and Victoria Fogarty as Holly.
One of my favourite experiences as an audience member, is seeing an ensemble member who shines, without being a 'scene stealer'. Brae Nichols is a fantastic example in this production that (and I know I have said this before in another review, but I will say it again and keep saying it) - there is no such thing as small roles, just small actors. Nichols shines as the dreaded brother in the opening scene and from there on in, continues to do so throughout his many ensemble and cameo roles. A great actor with and exceptional head of hair. Brava.
Musical Direction by duel MD's Po Goh and Kevin Nguyen is well done. The band is a tight-knit group with the only teeth clenching moments being whenever one hears a 'piano'. It sounds like a MIDI keyboard set to 'tin can' that's been dropped in a well. But that aside, the band sounds great.
What lets this production down quite greatly, is the technical elements. The theatre has a pretty impressive lighting rig - lots of movers, lots of haze. So much haze in fact, that if one told me that a fire had been lit in an offstage wing - I would have believed them. Backlighting is maximum, face lighting is next to non-existent. Projections are a waste of effort given the combination of intense backlight and haze that completely washes them out. Numbers often end with a pose that strikes at the same time as blackout and performers often walk out of what little light there is. Pardon my bluntness, but we want to see their faces! Let there be light!!
Sound is poorly mixed. The band sound fantastic. The actors however are not balanced at all. Explosions of sound constantly come as a shock to the cochlea (nowhere near as bad as these guys but still...) and meant that it often sounds like the ensemble were unintentionally trying to outblast each other. I say this often, but until everybody understands, I will keep shouting from the rooftops....BAD SOUND WILL KILL A GOOD SHOW. Getting your tech right needs to be a priority if you want the audience to be able to truly focus on the hard work you (production team and cast combined) have put in for months on end.
This show is a lot of fun. It's one of my favourites because it really is so well written. This production is worth the trip down to the South. It will make you laugh, it will make you smile and it will definitely have you belting out 80s classics all the way home to relive the retro memories.