REVIEW: The Wedding Singer, Sunderland Empire ✭✭✭✭✭

The Wedding Singer UK Tour

Jon Robyns (Robbie) and Cassie Compton (Julia) in The Wedding Singer.

The Wedding Singer
Sunderland Empire (UK Tour)
25 February 2017
5 Stars
Tour Dates and Information

From the moment you walk into the theatre auditorium for Nick Winston’s touring production of The Wedding Singer you are confronted with some fabulously retro film trailers for eighties hits like Rambo, The Goonies, Weird Science and Back To The Future. Sitting watching these clips is reminiscent of sitting at the drive-in many moons ago. Where this experience differs is that Winston has ensured we are sitting in a Delorean for what turns out to be a riotous retro evening in the theatre.

Adapted from the 1998 film The Wedding Singer written by Tim Herlihy and starring Herlihy’s college buddy Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, Matthew Sklar (Music) and Chad Beguelin (Lyrics) with a book by Herlihy and Beguelin have concocted a musical that is high on comedy and outrageously catchy.

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Jon Robyns as Robbie in The Wedding Singer.

Winston has created a real treat for anyone like me who grew up throughout the eighties. Look closely and you’ll see eighties pop culture and bits of your youth tumble by in a cavalcade of unabashed eighties schmaltz. It’s here from ridiculously out-of-date technology (yes that means you Motorola) right through to lively choreography torn straight from Michael Jackson’s Thriller video. Nothing is sacrosanct as Winston and the terrific cast brings this wonderful tale to life.

As The Wedding Singer himself, Jon Robyns is a perfect Robbie Hart. He can sing, he can dance and he plays a mean guitar and when his life goes into the dumpster he has an auditorium full of people rooting for him. Onstage for seventeen of the show’s musical numbers, this is a marathon performance that really shows off Robyn’s musical theatre chops!

Cassie Compton (Julia Sullivan) is perfection playing opposite Robyns. Their onstage chemistry works and her voice perfectly suits the catchy pop song Someday and the comedic Come Out Of The Dumpster. Together they have onstage magic!

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Jon Robyns, Ray Quinn and Company of The Wedding Singer UK Tour

As the show’s money obsessed, womanising fiend, Ray Quinn dances up a storm whilst oozing enough chauvinism to have half the women in the audience hating him and the other half salivating over him (you know what they say ‘treat em mean – keep em keen!’). In his Act Two showstopper Quinn knocks em dead, effortlessly dancing up a storm if they are looking to cast Wall Street the musical they need look no further.

Robbie’s grandma Rosie is played with style by Ruth Madoc. With her tongue firmly in cheek and a knowing wink to the audience, Madoc provides some knowing laughs, raps, and shows that it’s still possible to teach the youngsters on stage a thing of two.

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Samuel Holmes (George) and Ruth Madoc (Grandma Rosie) in The Wedding Singer

What makes The Wedding Singer work is the fabulous array of characters that inhabit Robbie’s world. Ashley Emerson’s blokey Sammy is one of those wonderful eighties guys, a bit thick, missing the point but trying oh so hard to be sensitive and a new age man, but failing spectacularly. Samuel Holmes’ George is a near perfect kick back to a style obsessed culture, the only problem is the style belongs to one Boy George! Holme’s gives George a subtle dead-pan humour that had the audience in stitches.

Roxanne Pallett brings Holly, Julia’s friend who is just a tiny lotta bit man crazy to life blazing pink hair and all. Not one to leave any available man alone, she provides a far more likeable character than Tara Verloop’s Linda. Described by Grandma Rosie as a ‘skanky whore’, Verloop is a delight as she puts on a routine worthy of a Stringfellow’s lap-dancer in Let Me Come Home.

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The company of The Wedding Singer.

Winston’s Wedding Singer also has one big ace up its sleeve in that it has one of the hardest working ensembles on tour at the moment. Providing the guests at numerous weddings and a Barmitzvah, this terrifically talented ensemble dance their way through some of the kitschiest dance routines you are likely to see and do it with panache!

George Dyer’s fabulous pit band keep the music pumping throughout. It’s a poptastic sound that will keep your feet tapping throughout and it’s perfectly delivered to the audience by Ben Harrison’s crisp clear sound design. Dyers orchestrations and keyboards bring to life a very certain sound that is so eighties pop that you really begin to believe that perhaps this young maestro might have been a worshipping at the altar of eighties synth pop from an early age.

Francis O’Connor provides enough shoulder pads, skinny ties and cumber bunds and a set that has such a simplified eighties feel that you can’t help but be taken back in time.

When The Wedding Singer comes to town, dig out your best eighties leftovers and prepare for a great night out. If you weren’t around in the eighties go along and be prepared to have a great time taking the mick out of those of us who were whilst enjoying a truly hilarious musical.

Photos: Darren Bell

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