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Prince William Little Theatre The Wedding Singer

By • Feb 15th, 2011 • Category: Reviews
The Wedding Singer
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.

Photo Gallery

Matt Kelly as George, Matt Curtis as Robbie and Joshua Wilson as Sammy Becca Harney as Julia and Meredith Ford as Holly
Matt Kelly as George, Matt Curtis as Robbie and Joshua Wilson as Sammy
Becca Harney as Julia and Meredith Ford as Holly
Matt Curtis as Robbie and Paige Taylor as Linda Meredith Ford as Holly and Joshua Wilson as Sammy
Matt Curtis as Robbie and Paige Taylor as Linda
Meredith Ford as Holly and Joshua Wilson as Sammy
Matt Curtis as Robbie
Matt Curtis as Robbie

Photos by Dave Harback.

Cast

  • 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

Production Team

  • 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

The Band

  • 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.

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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.

6 Responses »

  1. We thought the show was great.
    I emphatically disagree with this reviewer.
    The musical performances were certainly the highlight – they can ALL dance and sing! … and the audience’s enthusiasm for the cast’s energy was clearly evident.

    However, I don’t think anything was lost in the acting scenes. Robbie and Julia had some nice moments, as did Holly and Sammy. Glen was perfectly patronizing and greedy. It was cool how they used all of the space, having cast members and props enter from different angles, dancing on the balcony, etc. The live band was a great addition to the show.

    The “Back to the Future” car replica was funny, especially the scene where Glen pulls out his “newfangled cell phone” – I doubt anyone in the audience cared what the car was made of, they were too busy laughing at Glen’s outrageous narcissism. The “It’s All About the Green” number was hilarious… Robbie and Julia’s dilemma of love vs money was very clear for my 10 and 13 year old daughters to understand because of the nice scenes between the pairs of actors. We loved it! Thanks for a great show!

  2. Hello Jennifer,

    Thank you for this reflection of this production. I’m glad that someone with a knack for critiquing was able to see this production my wife, Sarah, and I saw this past Friday. We don’t go to much theatre, but our daughter encouraged us to come to this show because she said she loved the music.

    As for your review, I almost completely agree with you in every respect.

    The ensemble in this production was exceptional. A few of my favorites were the young man who played the drunk best man at the first wedding- as well as when he and the tall, African American, young man, played boyfriends who were getting engaged at the restaurant. They were both exceptional. Another ensemble member that stood out to me was a girl who played multiple characters. She is the full figured dancer, actress, singer, who in one scene plays a rough woman who cuckolds her husband at the mall. She was spectacular! In every single scene, she was a completely new character. These three were perfect as ensemble members.

    The major characters, however, did not give our as much forceful energy as the near perfect ensemble did. I agree with you Jennifer that, Matt Curtis as Robbie was great at acting, but, for me at least, his voice did not do it. I admit that I heard the Broadway version of the songs, and Curtis did not have the vocals strong enough for Robbie. The higher he sang, the less charming and impressive it became. However, I think that he would have been great in the role of Glen. He had the cockiness about him that would have been very well received for Glen. His voice was almost perfect for “Forget About The Green” (which is one of Sarah’s favorite songs). As for the actor that played Glen, I agree 100% with you Jennifer. It was absolutely unbelievable for me as an audience member to take as fact that the Julia had an romantic attachment to him. I wonder if the last name has anything to do with casting. I hope not because, as you said Jennifer, “there was an incredibly strong male ensemble.”

    I also agree with you in the respect of the lack of direction. Though a few of the main characters did not seem to have any acting training at all, as was the case with Becca Harney as Julia, I would put blame on the director for not giving some of the actors with potential the chance to show us what they’ve got; especially in the case of Matt Kelly who was adorable and incredible singing as George, but lacked the direction to succeed in the acting portion of the production. Meredith Ford was fun but sexy as Holly. Her vocal chops didn’t add up to the Broadway Cast, but they were respectable and when adding to her fun acting she made for an enjoyable performance.

    The sound quality was very poor. Perhaps I was expecting more, considering the space, but I was baffled with the large quantity of times when I couldn’t hear the actors or the ensemble singers. Hopefully kinks were worked out as the nights went by. The set, however was great. The scenes were easy to remove, though some took a little too long, but were very effective.

    Overall the production was enjoyable. I would recommend this show to my friends, but would warn them to be prepared for perfect music direction, and zero acting direction, with a talented group of people.

    The song “Casualty of Love” made the show for me. Congratulations to the Cast.

    Best wishes for this coming weekend.

    Peter-Thomas Smith

  3. As often happens in community theater with musicals, focus of attention is given to vocals with almost a total lack of regard to acting. The responsibility of the director is not only the staging of the production, but to teach the actors, if needed, to act and be believable. Great vocals without acting not makes a great show, and great acting without the vocals not makes a great show. There is a balance that needs to be had, and the director IS responsible for that to happen.
    Is PWLT’s production entertaining for the average community theater public, I believe it is, and will be enjoyed by many. However, if you are accustomed to highly professional productions and pay the price to see them produced on Broadway, then maybe you may not want to see this one.
    For PWLT and their audience base, it will be successful. people going, keep expectations of professionalism low, and have a good time and enjoy an evening of entertainment at a low cost to your pocketbook.

  4. @David Bayles: In the interest of full disclosure, I have not seen this show. However, you do NOT have to see highly professional, Broadway-level productions to know when a show is good or bad. There is much in community theatre that is wonderful. We should not dumb down our expectations because it is community theatre. As a long-time actor and stage manager in and patron of community theatre, I take exception to the idea that the average community theatre-going audience is too stupid to know what is good or bad. Sorry. I just had to get that off my chest.

  5. Thanks for your review. I saw this show on Friday, Feb 18th.

    I think your review is a bit off-base. There were some sound issues, primarily with the balance between actors and the band. But they weren’t show killers. After reading this review, I went to the show curious to see if I’d pick up on the direction problems that you pointed out in your review. I looked for them .. but didn’t find them.

    Overall, we found the show to be thoroughly enjoyable and quite funny. I first read this review a few days before attending the show and to be frankly honest, I found the review of this show to be rather … personal. After seeing the show in person, my perception is unchanged.

    The show was actually quite good. Well worth the $20. The cast and crew put on an exceptional performance and should be commended. I’ve attended several PWLT productions and found this to be one of their best.

  6. I was visiting Manassas over the weekend and attended The Wedding Singer. I found the production very enjoyable, as did my husband. I always enjoy musicals, but my husband does not. So when he said it was a great show, I know it was a GREAT show. I thought the cast did a very good job. I especially enjoyed the character of George. Job well done!