Review: “The Wedding Singer” in Santa Rosa

To some in the theatre world, the sourcing of an Adam Sandler movie as the basis for a musical was the Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse. Needless to say, American musical theatre did not come to an end with the arrival of The Wedding Singer on Broadway. The show managed to snag five Tony nominations, including Best Musical, and a relatively-brief Broadway run.

Originally scheduled to open the Santa Rosa Junior College’s renovated Burbank Auditorium over two years ago, The Wedding Singer has finally taken the stage. The SRJC Theatre Arts Department production of the musical adaptation of the 1998 film runs through May 8.

Ileene Christianson-Torres Max Bohlke-Slater

The book of the show by Chad Beguelin and Tim Herlihy is pretty much the same as the film (also by Herlihy). Wedding singer Robbie Hart (Max Bohlke-Slater) gets dumped at the altar and soon finds himself pining for Julia (Ileene Christianson-Torres), a server at what is apparently the only wedding reception venue in 1980’s New Jersey. Julia’s engaged to a Wall Street lug (Calvin Sandeen) who Robbie knows will be nothing but bad news for Julia. When Robbie finds out they’re eloping to Vegas, he jets west and with the assistance of a Billy Idol impersonator (among others), saves the day.

Oklahoma! it ain’t, but it doesn’t foolishly aspire to that level. It’s a perfectly serviceable musical that in the right hands provides a colorful evening’s entertainment. Director Reed Martin has an energetic cast at work here, and Bohlke-Slater and Christianson-Torres click in the lead roles. Good comedic support is provided by Aubrey Alexander as Julia’s cousin Holly and Samuel J. Gleason as bandmate Sam. Sandeen is appropriately loutish.

The ensemble work is very good, particularly in the large Alyce Finwall-choreographed musical numbers.

Costuming by Maryanne Scozzari, lighting by Robin DeLuca, and scenic design by Peter Crompton all add to the color, with Crompton’s design including two turntables and a slip stage for rapid scene changes.

The cast of “The Wedding Singer”

Music director Janis Dunson Wilson has an eight-piece orchestra handling the 80’s sounding score (music by Matthew Sklar, lyrics by Chad Beguelin). I often have issues with orchestras drowning out the vocals, but that was not the case here. If anything, the orchestra sounded a bit muffled.

Most audiences know what they’re going to get with a show like The Wedding Singer. As long as it’s done well, they won’t be disappointed. It was, I wasn’t, and yes, you’ll still get the rappin’ granny.

‘The Wedding Singer’ runs Thurs–Sun through May 8 in Santa Rosa Junior College’s Burbank Auditorium Main Theatre, 1501 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa. Thurs–Sat, 7:30pm; Sat & Sun, 2pm. $15–$25. Proof of COVID vaccination and masking required to attend. 707.527.4307.

Photos by Thomas Chown

This review originally appeared in an edited version in the North Bay Bohemian and Pacific Sun.

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