Arts & Leisure

“Wedding Singer” a fine flashback to ’80s

THE WEDDING SINGER” is now playing on stage at the  Gem Theater on Main Street in Garden Grove (One More Productions photo).

By Thom deMartino

It’s not deja vu, as much as a flashback…

The Gem Theater’s production of the musical “The Wedding Singer” opens at a 1986 wedding reception, and singer Robbie Hart (Edgar Andrew Torrens) is at the top of his game: taking the wedding reception circuit by storm with his band “Simply Wed,” his group helps revelers celebrate their loved one’s nuptials with catchy cover versions, along with a couple of original songs as well. Robbie himself is thrilled that he, too, is soon to wear a wedding band, as he is set to marry his sweetheart Linda (Brianna Garmon) the following day.

Waiting tables at the same gathering are Julia (Hannah Clair) and her best friend Holly (Nicole Cassesso): Julia has dreams of her own perfect wedding, and even helps Robbie compose a special tune for his fiancee. But what was supposed to be a joyous next day finds the would-be husband-to-be despondent as he is abandoned at the altar by Linda — who has re-evaluated their relationship, and concluded she can’t wed someone who’s not a “real” singer. Conversely, Julia gets her wish as her shady stock broker boyfriend Glen (Lawrence Havelka) proposes to her at a fancy revolving restaurant.

Robbie’s humiliation sends him into a downward spiral, leaving him unable to work, despite the coaxing of his grandmother Rosie (Shannon Page) and bandmates Sammy (Tim Miller) and George (Peter Crisafulli.) When he finally does take a new gig, he’s got a chip on his shoulder: infuriating the bride and groom (as well as the rest of the wedding party), and ending up beaten and tossed in a rubbish bin for his trouble.

It’s Julia who helps drag him out of the dumps(ter), encouraging him to move on with his life, pleading with him to perform at her wedding (which he can’t yet bring himself to do) and help her with her wedding registry. But could there be something simmering below the surface of the pair’s budding friendship? Might Robbie find that that someone special has been next to him this whole time?

Those who have attended previous One More Productions performances at the Gem know the high production value of their shows, and  “The Wedding Singer” takes it to a whole other level with their new, dazzling lighting, transporting the audience to a non-stop party, be it a reception, discotheque or bar mitzvah (yes, you read that right.) Besides rousing musical numbers, the show includes dizzying dance choreography that almost tempts the viewers to join in, and the individual actors’ performances are a labor of love. Torrens and Clair percolate with chemistry, the dysfunctional relationship between Cassesso’s Madonna-esque Holly and Miller’s wannabe bad-boy Sammy charms, and Crisafulli’s flamboyant George illuminates and practically steals every scene he’s in.

One can’t forget to mention the brilliant musicians tucked back and hidden behind the hypnotic lighting — the lively performance of whom, combined with the cast’s dulcet vocals, truly makes the show. And while the production has some mature content to be sure (essentially PG-13), if your teen can watch the music videos of today, the occasional swear word shouldn’t faze them.

The One More Productions “The Wedding Singer” is truly a phenomenal gem for audiences to enjoy and revel in — and don’t be surprised if you afterwards find yourself digging through ancient boxes in your storage or attic to find your old parachute pants or denim jacket… you know, just for old time’s sake.

“The Wedding Singer.” Edgar Andrew Torrens, Hannah Clair and Nicole Cassesso star in this One More Production company’s run of the hit musical production that’s a welcome blast from the past. Playing June 29 through July 23 at The Gem Theater, 12852 Main Street, Garden Grove, CA, 92840. Call 714-741-9550 x221 or e-mail for ticketing information. Some adult language and content.


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