Review Author: Joe Clarke
I had the pleasure of returning to The Brindley Theatre tonight to see Centenary Theatre Company’s musical treat ‘The Wedding Singer’. Based on the 1998 film of the same name, starring Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler, this musical tells a simple love story of it’s two main characters, Julia and Robbie, amongst the backdrop of crimped hair, leotards and day-glow colours.
Fresh from his fantastic run in Encore’s, The Railway Children’, Seb Farrell returns to Centenary Theatre Company to take on the role of director. Overall, I was pleased with directional choices and overall vision. However, I had a problem with the set which negatively impacted on direction. For me, the set was placed too far back on the stage. It was huge and quite static. I can see the reasons why it was placed where it was, but this meant that the bedroom scenes and other scenes outside Julia’s house etc were placed very far back from the audience. This was okay for the larger crowd scenes but for the more intimate scenes I felt a little disconnected from the action. I also didn’t like the staging during ‘Saturday Night in the City’, with having the two large groups at the back intermittently dancing in slow motion. I would have also personally preferred a little more truth to the main group of actors. This would have made them more-rounded, believable characters which could’ve been a great antithesis to the more comedic moments. Despite this, there was certainly plenty of light and shade amongst Julia and Robbie and the right amount of campery from the rest of the cast. Some of the strengths lie in the whole cast/chorus numbers. Every actor had a story to tell and I found myself watching the people in the background on more than one occasion as they were so enthralling! Visually, with the costumes etc, this show was great and there was the right amount of storytelling to combat the comedy. I also loved the directorial choice of the projection and video screens.
The musical director for this production was Simon Pickup. Simon and his band were not placed in the pit; but backstage. I feel that this was a good choice as the three wedding singers are supposed to be the band, therefore it would’ve been a little obvious that the band were playing in the pit. I personally would’ve had the real band onstage playing as part of the wedding band, but I understand that staging might have affected this. For me, the band were great. I enjoyed the various rhythms and instruments played and I could hear that they were having fun playing the 80’s style. I particularly liked the brass instruments and electric guitars.
Choreography was by Claire Hennessey. The choreography was suitably camp and helped add to the comedy. It was also sympathetic to the style of the era. I thought that the group of dancers were outstanding! ‘All About The Green’ and ‘Finale’ were fantastic and a visual treat!
Costumes were outstanding. I am so impressed that Centenary Theatre Company have managed to make and source all of their own costumes. I loved the various materials and colours used and it made the show all the more authentic. If any society out there are planning on doing this show, then I would suggest you get hold of these costumes!
As I mentioned above, the set was pretty disappointing. For me, it was too big, too clunky and not utilised enough because it was immovable/static. I wasn’t that impressed with it visually either. I did however love the use of the cloths and the projection screen. This gave it an extra dimension which brought the action forward and enabled scene changes to go on behind. Some scene changes were far too long and far too noisy. The negatively impacted on the energy and rhythm of the brilliant chorus numbers. At times, there were bits of set and props left onstage by accident.
Lights and sound were generally okay. I was not really impressed with the lighting design. For me, too many spots were used and there were too many times that cast didn’t hit their spot and were bordering into darkness. For me, it could’ve been more awash with colour to correlate with the costumes and overall feel of the piece. Some of the mics were a little loud (Holly and Linda’s mic).
Make-up and props were generally very good, particularly the make-up. This show allows make-up to stand out and it certainly did in this show! This impacted well with the costumes and the overall feel. Props were good too, although I personally hated the plastic glasses that were stuck onto the trays as the waitresses who carried them showed that they were empty and clearly stuck on.
Maria Ames played the leading role of the main love interest – Julia Sullivan. I thought that Maria did very well and was well cast in the role. Maria sang beautifully and has a lovely tone to her voice. I particularly like her version of ‘Come Out of The Dumpster’. Maria is a good actress through song. I liked her storytelling whenever she sang. I did feel that some of her character choices were a little superficial and 2d during some of the main scenes, but I totally believed her character during the big get together with Robbie (Grow Old With You) and I even shed a little tear!
Tom McLoughlin played the other half of the love interest, Robbie Hart. I really enjoyed Tom’s performance and he has a lot of range. He used his voice well, although I felt he spent a little too long speaking in his higher register during the more serious bits. Tom has a great singing voice and he sang well throughout. He also played his guitar live on-stage which was suitably impressive. I really believed the connection between Tom and Maria and they were well cast.
Sam Walton played the role of Sammy. Sam played this role as a surfer/Rockstar type which totally worked for me. Because of his accent, I could see some of the audience struggle with his diction at the beginning, but I didn’t at all. For me, he was a well-rounded character and I wanted to see much more of him in more scenes. Sam has very good stage presence and was also very well cast in this role – well done Sam!
Helen Gorry played the role of Holly, the happy go-lucky friend of Julia. I liked Helen’s connection to Sam and thought that they made a good partnership. Helen is a strong dancer and certainly held her own during her rendition of ‘Pop’. I personally would’ve preferred to see more of a bitchy but loveable side to Holly to make her even more different to Julia, but this is just a personal preference.
Daniel Richter played the role of the effeminate George – the Boy George wannabe. Daniel played the comedic side of this character brilliantly. He had the audience laughing throughout and looked amazing in his costume and make-up. He was brilliantly cast in the role. Although the script doesn’t allow much of it, I would’ve liked to have seen more of the vulnerable and caring side of George, especially when he was helping Robbie get to Julia in Las Vegas. Because George is the ‘funny one’ he was a little two-dimensional for me.
Danielle Segar brilliantly played the role of the crazy Linda. Danielle was fearless and commanded the stage. Although the part is relatively small, Danielle certainly made sure that she used every second of time that she was onstage. Her rendition of ‘A Note From Linda’ was one of the highlights for me – well done Danielle – I was definitely scared of Linda!
Anna Walton played the role of Rosie (although the programme says Rose) – the sex mad Grandma of Robbie. Anna did very well in this role and was suitably funny in all of her scenes. I loved her version of ‘Not That Kind Of Thing’ with Dan (George). Anna looked great in her shell-suit which only added to the humour!
Alex Re played the role of the baddie, Glen(n) Gulia. Alex had great projection and stage presence. He was well cast in the role and I like his character choices. He used his body well to be physically intimidating. I personally would’ve played Glen to be a bit more back-footed and evilly introverted, but this is just a personal preference. ‘All About The Green’ was brilliant to watch and Alex was a good showman.
Jan Orrilliard played the role of Angie – the mother of Julia. Jan had a lovely rapport with Maria but for me, lacked a little projection. I see this character as I highly strung, money-grabbing lady who marries into money and tries to convince her daughter to do the same. I felt that Jan was a little too nice and too lovable as Angie. Despite this, the audience enjoyed her portrayal so maybe I’m being a little harsh?
There are FAR too many others in the cast to mention in this review. With a cast of over 40, everyone had their role to play. Whether it was a cameo role (I loved Billy Idol) or a dancer – you were certainly noticed and certainly appreciated. I thought that the character work and storytelling from the background cast was fantastic – you were fab to watch! The dancers were excellent and visually captivating too. I loved the men’s version of ‘Single’ – hilarious! I also loved the ‘Finale’ – brilliantly danced and sung. Well done to Centenary for another great show. It certainly deserves a far bigger audience than was there tonight! Thanks once again for your hospitality and I wish you all the very best for your 2019 season!