New York City Theater
"The Wedding Singer"
Al Hirshfield Theatre, Broadway
It takes a long time to get caught up in the new musical, “The Wedding Singer”—half-way through the show, in fact. The opening numbers are a series of pointless song-and-dance routines. Or so they seem. But eventually the story falls into place. The musical is telling us that a young musical trio plays at wedding receptions, as it waits to break into the Big Time. These look-alike scenes, however, go on endlessly and noisily. And though the able young performers keep the energy at a high level, why bother?
Yet, even as we grow irritated with the show itself, we are increasingly in awe of designer Scott Pask’s sets—a remarkable outlay of money and talent. They roll across the stage in rapid succession, constantly diverting and a delight to the eye.
So much for Act One. But with Act Two comes a sea change. The story picks up, the characters take hold. And all the overblown energies revealed in Act One now serve the show. Not that this is an unusual story. It is the usual Boy Meets Girl, Gets Girl, Loses Girl, Gets Girl. Robbie plays lead guitar with the combo which offers its services at weddings. Also bar mitzvahs and anniversaries, if called upon. His own girl Linda whom he planned to marry has deserted him, and he mopes about, until he realizes that Julia is his True Love. She, in turn, is about to marry the stuffy Glen--the Wrong Man, of course. Along the way, their friends and confidants (Rosie and Sammy) offer the comic side of love gone wrong. In all, a very ordinary, predictable tale, little enhanced by the pedestrian music and lyrics of Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin.
But in the hands of this energetic troupe, “The Wedding Singer” manages to fly in the second act. Stephen Lynch and Laura Benanti are especially appealing as the young lovers, and Rita Gardner, as the friend Rosie, lights up the stage whenever she appears.
While this bit of overblown froth will never take its place among Broadway greats, it offers a pleasant evening’s entertainment (as indicated by the audience’s enthusiasm which mounted as the show progressed). If only “The Wedding Singer” had begun and ended with the second act we would all have been the richer!
-- Irene Backalenick
May 3, 2006