Prince William Little Theatre The Wedding SingerBy Jennifer Gusso • Feb 15th, 2011 • Category: Reviews
Prince William Little Theatre
Gregory Family Theatre, Manassas, VA
Through February 19th
2:40 with intermission
$20/$16 Seniors, Students, or Active Military
Reviewed February 12th, 2011
The Wedding Singer is a delightful musical adaptation of the 1998 Adam Sandler-Drew Barrymore romantic comedy. It tells the story of wedding singer Robbie Hart, who gets his heart broken and then finds true love in a very typical musical-comedy plotline. The distinguishing feature of this show is that it is filled with humorous references to the 1980s.
Prince William Little Theatre’s production was like watching two different shows at once. The vocals and choreography led to extraordinary musical numbers, while the lack of direction led to rushed and artificial scenes between the songs. Certainly, it can often make sense to cast for vocal ability above acting chops in a musical, but, for this to turn into a success, the production must have a director who is capable of shaping the performing during the scenes. Sadly, this was not the case. Either the production schedule was ill-planned and all time was devoted to musical numbers with little time left over to focus on scene work, or the director simply did not know how to bring the characters and proper delivery out of the actors. Either way, this problem rests squarely on the shoulders of Producer and Director Melissa Jo York-Tilley. It is a shame that a talented cast, a beautiful space, strong resources, and excellent choreography and vocal direction were not allowed to shine as brightly as they could due to what was obviously the lack of direction in this production.
The show opened with the fun-filled “It’s Your Wedding Day.” Matt Curtis, as Robbie Hart, instantly sparkled with his infectious charm, perfectly cheesy showmanship, and stellar vocals. The ensemble was aglow. The choreography was precise and creative. It seemed destined that we were in for a wonderful time. Then, the song ended. Matt Curtis was definitely the strongest actor of the bunch, but it was so painfully obvious that he needed a good director to shape his performance. Many lines were thrown away due to ineffective blocking or timing. The pace was a mess. Slow when it should be fast; fast when it should be slow.
Similar problems plagued fellow band members Sammy (Joshua Wilson) and George (Matt Kelly). Both had great voices, both came alive during the well-crafted vocal numbers and choreography, both had some really good instincts that led to a few good acting moments, but both were clearly lacking the shaping and direction that would have made their acting performances strong. Someone needed to step in and tell them when they were being inconsistent in character, when the pace was off, and when they were throwing away good lines.
This problem was especially clear in the performance of Becca Harney as Julia. She had a beautiful and strong voice, and she came alive in the musical numbers. However, she was one of the weakest actors in the production. She was extremely artificial and had a very difficult time with pacing and appropriate vocal inflection. However, there is a scene in front of the mirror that comes directly out of the 1998 film. Harney was able to easily give an excellent imitation of Drew Barrymore from the movie, and, for a moment, she was as strong as she had been in the musical numbers. Harney obviously does not have a lot of natural instincts as an actress, but she is obviously highly capable of giving the required performance when it is shown to her. A strong director could have made Harney’s performance consistent throughout.
Another excellent example is Paige Taylor’s Linda. During her number “A Note From Linda,” her comedic timing was impeccable. The number was clearly well-planned and well-rehearsed. It is a shame that the same was not evident in her scenes. Meredith Ford (Holly) fell in a similar boat with the leading men. She had some good instincts but lacked direction. She had a very nice voice but was plagued in this particular performance with some issues with her microphone being inconsistent and not always picking her up. Jay Tilley was miscast as Glen, and nothing about his performance was interesting enough to overcome the fact that he did not look the part, especially when there was an incredibly strong male ensemble. In particular, Jesse Baskin lit up the stage even in his small roles and would have been much more credible in the role of Glen.
It is important to once again mention that the choreography was incredible. Not only was it creative and fun, incorporating moves from “Thriller” and other 80s throwbacks, it was well-taught to the ensemble.
The use of no microphones during the scenes and loud microphones during the musical numbers led to some very sudden shifts in the acoustics. With the large space, it probably would have been a better decision to leave the microphones on at all times. The lighting was very basic. It would have been nice to have seen more atmosphere and mood created. Several of the set pieces were very nice, like the dumpster and the bedroom water heater, while others looked fake and were often even unnecessary (such as Glen’s car). It would have been a better decision to deliver those lines offstage then to take time and money to light headlights while the car itself was not made very cleanly and was clearly cardboard. The time and money would have been better spent on creating some sort of representational and bright-colored background to bring forth the bright 80s feel rather than just using black curtains. Again, there were obviously resources and talent in the production team, but there was a lack of a clear vision tying it all together into a unified production.
If The Wedding Singer had been a concert version with the scenes taken away, this would have been right up there with several professional productions I have seen recently. It was a shame to see this level of talent and resources wasted because of lack of direction and vision.
Photos by Dave Harback.
- Robbie Hart: Matt Curtis
- Sammy: Joshua Wilson
- George: Matt Kelly
- Julia: Becca Harney
- Holly: Meredith Ford
- Glen: Jay Tilley
- Linda: Paige Taylor
- Rosie: Susy Moorstein
- Angie: Chrissy Janoski
- Crystal: Katy Chmura
- Mookie: Zachary Fletcher
- Donnie: Ryheem Harris
- Tiffany: Katherine Bisulca
- Bum: Shawn Daknis
- Arnold Hart: Katherine Bisulca
- David Fonda: Jesse Baskin
- Jared Shapiro: Katherine Bisulca
- Ensemble: Stephanie Gaia Chu, Katy Chmura, Jennifer Pierrot, Jesse Baskin, Zach Fletcher, Heather Hahn, Cana Wade, Katherine Bisulca, Alexia Poe, Shawn Daknis, Ryheem Harris, Darren Brydie, Candi Baker, Irene Melice, & Melanie Gibson
- Director/Producer: Melissa Jo York-Tilley
- Music Director: Amy Marie Baillargeon Paul
- Choreographer: Melanie Gibson
- Stage Manager: Don Peterson
- Production Manager: Dave Warner
- Chief Set Design: Darrell Poe
- Set Designer (Bedroom): David Johney
- Costume Design: Susy Moorstein & Melissa York-Tilley
- Lighting Designer: Ian Claar
- Sound Designer: Ian Claar
- Fight Choreographer: Carl Long
- Make-Up Design: Paige Taylor
- Crew Chief: Alika Codispoti
- Running Crew: Sarah Barlow, Becca Jackson, Luke Lohr, Paul Rubenstein, & Darrell Poe
- Publicity: Jay Tilley
- Program: Pam Cribbs
- Piano: Amy Marie Baillargeon Paul
- Drums: Marie Juliano
- Electric & Acoustic Guitar: William Schillinger
- Trumpet: Dave Shuma
- Keyboards: Steven Scott
- Bass Guitar: Dave Warner
Disclaimer: Prince William Little Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review. PWLT also purchased advertising on the ShowBizRadio.net web site, which did not influence the opinions expressed in this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/6207.
Jennifer Gusso has been involved in theatre in the state of Maryland and DC for most of her life. She has acted, directed, choreographed, stage managed, and held a million other odd jobs. She has a B.S. in English from Towson University, and is currently pursuing her Master's Degree to become a Reading Specialist. She is a Maryland State Certified English, Theatre, Elementary, and Mathematics Educator. After teaching English and Drama for many years, she now teaches 6th grade Language Arts at Magnolia Middle School in Harford County, Maryland. She wrote the curriculum currently used in Prince George’s County Public Schools for Drama I and Drama II. She now writes and directs plays and musical for use in church.