Review by Barbara Mehlman
Music by: Matthew Sklar
Lyrics by: Chad Beguelin
Book by: Tim Herlihy & Chad Beguelin
Directed by: John Rando
Cast: Stephen Lynch, Laura Benanti, Amy Spanger, Rita Gardner, Richard Blake, Kevin Cahoon, Felicia Finely, Matthew Saldivar.
Synopsis: Itï¿½s 1985 and rock-star wannabe Robbie Hart is New Jersey's favorite wedding singer. Heï¿½s the life of the party - until his own fiancï¿½e leaves him at the altar. Shot through the heart, Robbie makes every wedding as disastrous as his own. Enter Julia, a winsome waitress who wins his affection. Only trouble is Julia is about to be married to a Wall Street shark, and unless Robbie can pull off the performance of the decade, the girl of his dreams will be gone forever.
This is one of two really good musicals this season that were eclipsed by "Jersey Boys" and "The Drowsy Chaperone" (the other being "Hot Feet") but it's a real winner, at least in my estimation, and it's certainly as good as "Hairspray" which won the Tony for Best Musical in 2003.
"Wedding Singer" is based on the film of the same name, and like "Hairspray," it just cried out to be a musical, not the least reason being that it's about a singer. But it's also a story that is funnier and sweeter sung than told. Fortunately, composer Matthew Sklar and lyricist Chad Beguelin were perceptive enough to realize the possibilities, and in this, their Broadway musical debut, have put together a truly clever, and often hilarious score.
Robbie Hart, the main character in the story, is a young musician who once played in a rock band and was engaged to the platinum blonde, leather clad Linda -- until . . . well, here's how Robbie explains it: "I wrote a song six years ago / While playing in a wedding band / The word got out and suddenly / The band was in demand."
So Robbie, superbly played by Comedy Central's Stephen Lynch, became New Jersey's most popular wedding singer, but also Linda's ex-fiance. She left him at the altar, explaining in an I-need-some-space note that "You could have been in Motley Crue / Or David Lee Roth's replacement / But instead you sing while people chew / And live in your grandma's basement."
Robbie's bereft and though Grandma Rosie tries to console him by telling him "You'll find someone who loves you / Sure as waves will find the shore / And when you're sad, remember / That Linda is a skanky whore," her words of comfort don't help.
Robbie's sadness transforms him into the Wedding Singer from Hell, ruining people's weddings by singing about depression, suicide and betrayal -- not exactly nuptial hits. "Love's a trick / Love's a trap / Love's a hot chick with the clap," he wails and then runs outside and dives into the dumpster.
The only light in his miserable life is the waitress, Julia, who has become his closest friend. What Robbie doesn't know, but everyone else knows, is that he has actually fallen in love with her.
There's a problem, though. Julia's engaged to Glen Guglia (which, incidentally, will give her the silly rhyming name of Julia Guglia), a Wall Street shark with the business ethics of a reptile. Not to worry, though. Glen gets his, Linda gets hers, and everyone else gets love.
What the critics had to say.....
BEN BRANTLEY of the NEW YORK TIMES says ï¿½An example of recycled recycling, or second-hand nostalgia.ï¿½
CLIVE BARNES of THE NEW YORK POST says "Whenever you're prepared to give the show the benefit of a doubt, it comes crashing down."
HOWARD KISSELL of the NEW YORK DAILY NEWS says "For about 10 minutes, you have the feeling it's going to be an evening of fun. Then suddenly the mood quiets down. It never quite reaches that level of excitement again. What could have gone wrong, you wonder. And then you realize, this is a musical version of a mediocre film - how good could it be?"
MICHAEL SOMMERS of the STAR-LEDGER says "Sure, everybody knows in advance what they're getting with "The Wedding Singer." So what? A good time can be had by all."
ELYSA GARDNER of USA TODAY says "The Wedding Singer has more heart and a better sense of humor about itself than some of its similarly wacky, winking peers."
JACQUES LE SOURD of JOURNAL NEWS says "A good-natured musical with a great big hole in the middle."
ROBERT FELDBERG of THE RECORD says "It's not awful, but it doesn't set the bar very high, either."
PETER MARKS of the WASHINGTON POST says "Feels like a show composed as much at a board meeting as a keyboard."
LINDA WINER of NEWSDAY says "A good-natured, harmless, high-energy knockoff of the 1998 Adam Sandler-Drew Barrymore romantic comedy"
MICHAEL KUCHWARA of the ASSOCIATED PRESS says "More relentless than inspired."
FRANK SCHECK of THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER "Your fondness for 1980s nostalgia might get pushed to the breaking point."
External links to full reviews from newspapers