REVIEW: The Wedding Singer (Circle Theatre)

| September 26, 2010 | 15 Comments

 

A Sweet Wedding Confection

 

 

Wedding Singer (L-R) Kelli LaValle, Patti Roeder, Eric Lindahl, Rachel Quinn, Nathan Carroll and Shawn Quinlan. Photo by Bob Knuth.

   
Circle Theatre presents
   
The Wedding Singer
   
Book by Chad Beguelin and Tim Herlihy
Music/Lyrics by
Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin
Directed by
Kevin Bellie
at
Circle Theatre, 1010 W. Madison, Oak Park (map)
through October 31  |  tickets: $26   |  more info

Reviewed by K.D. Hopkins

I must make a shocking confession. I have never seen the film “The Wedding Singer”. I have however lived through the 80’s and still have the bag of removable shoulder pads to prove it. The Circle Theatre musical production of The Wedding Singer is a fun romp through the decade that was all about froth and hair looking like spun sugar. The creators – Chad Beguelin and Tim Herlihy wrote the book of the movie with music by Matthew Sklar and Beguelin have done a brilliant job bringing this 80’s-sounding score to life. 

Wedding Singer - Eric Lindahl and Rachel Quinn. Photo by Bob Knuth. Eric Lindahl plays our hero Robbie Hart with none of Adam Sandler’s snark. That is precisely why I liked him so much in this role. It is a tribute to the time when musicals were all about a girl and a guy up against the odds and winning. Lindahl has a good voice and sings the wedding schmaltz as well as the arena rock ballads. Rachel Quinn plays leading lady Julia Sullivan. Ms. Quinn has the moves to play the heroine but her voice is not made for pop music. She is reminiscent of the Rogers and Hammerstein era of musicals and does well as the bereft heroine.

Blowing the lid off of the power ballads are Kelli LaValle and Britni Tozzi. Ms. Tozzi plays bad girl Linda who channels Pat Benatar while giving Robbie Hart the heave ho. I absolutely adored Ms. LaValle as the slightly trampy best friend Holly. She is dressed in classic tulle layers and spun sugar hair- so unlike a virgin. It is a standout performance and LaValle has a powerhouse voice that rocks the rafters.

The storyline is not a surprise but it is still fun. Robbie Hart is the leader of a wedding band called ‘Simply Wed’ who gets his heart broken and falls for the local banquet hall waitress. The waitress is of course waiting for a dual-life jerk executive to put a ring on it and keep her in claw hair and sparkly duds. Hart lives in Grandma’s basement somewhere in Jersey and what a grandma she is. Patti Roeder plays the role of a frisky grandmother who pulls out the rapping chops to great comic effect. Roeder brings down the house with her double entendres and libidinous one- liners.

 

(L-R) Dennis Schnell, Michael Mejia, Nathan Carroll, Eric Lindahl, Shawn Quinlan, Tommy Bullington, Jimmy Lis and Tommy Thurston The Impersonators of The Wedding Singer - Photo by Bob Knuth
Wedding Singer (L-R) Toni Lynice Fountain, Michael Mejia, Rachel Quinn, Melody Latham and Patti Roeder Wedding Singer - (L-R) Nathan Carroll, Eric Lindahl and Shawn Quinlan

Making up the rest of ‘Simply Wed’ are Nathan Carroll in full ‘Flock of Seagulls’ regalia and Shawn Quinlan as a Boy George clone. They are very funny and touching in their bromance roles. Jim DeSelm rounds out the leading cast as Glen the blazingly arrogant Wall Street raider. He leads a fine song about money and greed as his character shows his true colors.

The rest of the cast is stellar. They are really good dancers, and the choreography by Director Kevin Bellie is great nostalgic fun to watch. The Las Vegas scenes are hysterically surreal with a cornucopia of classic characters as Vegas impersonators. This goes way beyond Elvis and deep into ‘Behind the Music’ territory with Patti Labelle, Michael Jackson, Billy Idol, Imelda Marcos (!) and a brilliant cameo by Dennis Schnell as Sam Kinison.

The Wedding Singer is well worth the travel to Oak Park.  Don’t miss it!

   
   
Rating: ★★★½
  
  

FYI: I would advise getting there early to have dinner before the curtain because the sidewalks roll up in Oak Park at 10pm.The Wedding Singer runs through October 31st at The Performance Center, 1010 W. Madison St. in Oak Park (map). Go for some great music, laughs, romance, memories, and great ideas for Halloween! The Performance Center is accessible by Metra as well as the CTA Green Line. Shoulder pads and claw hair are optional.

Wedding Singer (L-R) Sarah Conrad, Rachel Quinn, Kelli LaValle, Kendle Lester, Kristen Calvin and Britni Tozzi

Production Peeps

 

Music by Matthew Sklar
Book by Chad Bequelin & Tim Herlihy
Lyrics by Chad Bequelin
Based on the Adam Sandler/New Line Cinema film written by Tim Herlihy

Wedding Singer - Rachel Quinn and Jim DeSelmStarring Eric Lindahl and Rachel Quinn   Directed & Choreographed by Kevin Bellie
Music Directed by Carolyn Brady Riley
Stage Managed by Tara Malpass
Costumes by Kevin Bellie
Hair Design by Michael Buonincontro
Scenic/Graphic Design by Bob Knuth
Lighting Design by Gary Echelmeyer
Sound Design by Peter J. Storms
Music directed by Carolyn Brady Riley

Also featuring: Jake Autizen * Tommy Bullington * Kristen Calvin * Nathan Carroll *Sarah Conrad * Jim DeSelm * Melody Latham * Kelli Eileen LaValle * Kendel Lester * Jimmy Lis * Toni Lynice Fountain * Michael Mejia * Shawn Quinlan * Patti Roeder * Dennis Schnell * Tommy Thurston * Britni Tozzi *

     
     

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Category: 2010 Reviews, Circle Theatre, K.D. Hopkins

Comments (15)

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  1. J says:

    Great Review! Just wanted to correct that Linda, Robbie’s Pat Benataresque ex, is actually played by Britni Tozzi, while Sarah Conrad played Angie, Julia’s mother.

    • whimzee says:

      So many people in so many plays! thanks for double-checking. all the actors work so hard and deserve to be rightly attributed. thanks for reading!

  2. T says:

    This is a fantastic review but it was actually the Linda character singing the Pat Benatar ballad who was played by Britni Tozzi not Sarah Conrad, just to clarify again like person above.

  3. Wanda says:

    I think I must have seen a completely different show.

  4. Ian says:

    I don’t think I could disagree with this review more. I don’t know much about Circle Theatre, but I went to see The Wedding Singer after seeing the production on Broadway several years ago when it was playing. I enjoyed the Broadway production, but the Circle Theatre’s production wasn’t even a fraction of what that production was. Don’t get me wrong, the show itself has issues on its own. The score alone has serious problems, which is why I’m guessing it didn’t do so well on Broadway. The song titled “Come Out of the Dumpster” should be a quick indiction that it doesn’t come with a brilliant score, but with that said, it’s still a really fun show. With this production given by the Circle Theatre, I can only guess that this critic/reviewer saw a different show than I did. (Though judging by the mistake this critic/reviewer made with naming the wrong cast member and character name in the review, maybe she wasn’t paying attention?) This production from Circle Theatre was one star at best though, and a three and a half star review was beyond generous.

    The main problem with the show was the ridiculously poor casting choice of Eric Lindahl as the leading man Robbie Hart. The biggest complaint with Eric’s performance was his very poor vocal performance, that left my group cringing on each note that he missed. There were several songs where he even flubbed entrances and either started singing his part too early or two late, which is something I wouldn’t expect of a professional of his caliber. I suppose many in the audience probably didn’t notice, but since I am very familar with the soundtrack/music of the show, I could tell with each mistake, and it really stuck out. Much like his singing though, his acting left much to be desired. Many in our group described it by saying he looked completely uninterested and unprepared onstage, as if he only had one day to rehearse while the rest of the show had much more time. His guitar playing also came across the same way, as he missed just about every chord in his first act song with just his guitar. There had to be better casting choices available to Circle Theatre, because this awkward performance left me actually feeling bad for this guy.

    (That’s a long review of Eric specifically, but as The Wedding Singer is a show carried mainly by the Robbie, I feel it’s fair.)

    There were some redeeming qualities in the rest of the cast. Rachel Quinn’s leading lady Julia was performed well, but as this critic/reviewer pointed out, vocally she was wrong for the role. I’d love to see her in more of a classic role. Kelli LaValle was hilarious as the “easy-going” Holly, though her voice sounded noticeably very tired our night. Shawn Quinlan also was very much a standout as the flamboyant George.

    The biggest shock to me was Britni Tozzi, who plays Linda, who leaves Robbie at the altar. She has one of the best voices I’ve heard in Chicago theater. The girl blew the roof off of the theater, and left many of us wondering why she was cast in such a small role. We could have easily seen her as a much stronger Holly or Julia, and she certainly probably deserved one of the biggest female roles.

    Beyond that, the ensemble of the show was very inconsistant. In one number they would look and sound great, but in the next they would look completely lost, though several ensemble members looked lost the entire show. I can’t really blame them too much, since, the other major problem of the show was the poor choreography by Kevin Bellie. I’ve seen better choreography choices in a high school musical. One of the biggest complaints with the dancing was adding choregraphy where it wasn’t necessary. Sometimes it’s ok for the attention to be on the solo the singer is giving, and not the dancing. The other complaint? Throwing the 80′s references into your face WAY too much. One of the sucessful parts of the Broadway productions were the quick and random 80′s references, especially in the dancing. It was just a split moment here and there, and that’s what made it funny. For an entire number to be in 80′s style lost the comedy of there being a reference in the first place.

    All in all, save yourself the awful drive to Oak Park, and stay in and watch the movie. It’ll be far cheaper, and it will provide you much more entertainment.

    • Tim says:

      Ian, i saw the show this weekend and couldn’t AGREE with you more. This reviewer, as is true with most, is simply being kind. I would disagree in that I believed that the ensemble was pretty good, except for the actor playing Boy George, Shawn Quinlan, and I would also disagree with you and say that both leads were poor — not just poor casting but weak vocally and acting-wise. I feel bad for most of the ensemble having to endure these performances. Standouts were definately Kelli LaValle, the best actress/singer I’ve seen in Chicagoland in some time, as well as Nathan Carroll, Jim DeSelm, and Britni Tozzi.

      All said and done, I believe that Circle Theater does really well when they stick to non-musicals. At best, they are a traditional COMMUNITY THEATER and musicals are way beyond their ability!

      My other complaint is that THE WEDDING SINGER would probably still be an awful show even with great lead singers.

      • Jessie says:

        Umm I can’t believe you would say something like this. Not only are the leads, Eric Lindahl and Rachel Quinn, EXTREMELY talented singer/actors, both have been nominated numerous times for Jeff awards and Eric is an award winner. True, maybe their voices were not stylistically what the show needed but to call them poor actor/singers is just ridiculous. Circle Theatre is not community theatre. As stated below, Circle was just given a 25 year Special Award recognizing their amazing work. They are endlessly nominated and awarded and were just voted Favorite Theatre on ABC7. Do your homework. Go to the Website and look it up. Its all listed there for you. What’s your beef with Circle?!?!

  5. Tim says:

    Oh yeah, one of the worst things about the show was the costumes. The costumes were sad!

  6. Lexi says:

    I have seen most of the shows at Circle Theatre over the last few years and “The Wedding Singer” was definitely not their best, but I think that the production was as good as it could have been given the script they had to work with. The script’s cheesiness and instability seriously limited the show, and although I liked the music, the lyrics just added to the corniness. “Come Out of the Dumpster”? Really?

    Although “Wedding Singer” at Circle is sub par (especially compared to their other amazing productions), some of these comments made have also been completely off the mark. Eric Lindahl in no way gave a poor vocal performance. He has a great range and good control of his voice. He played also played Mr. Walker in Circle’s production of “The Who’s Tommy” and he was superb (he was also nominated for a Jeff for that role).

    Also, the choreography was DEFINITELY not the biggest problem. Kevin Bellie is inventive and creative as always (although i did like his choreography in other shows of his better than in this show).

    And Tim, Circle is in NO WAY a community theatre. This show was not great, but it certainly does not negate all of the fantastic work that Circle has done in the past. Circle Theatre has taken on some huge musicals like “Meet Me In St. Louis,” “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” and “The Who’s Tommy.” Each of these productions were critically acclaimed and they were all nominated or won Jeff awards.

    Would a community theatre just win an award for 25 years of excellence?

    • Ian says:

      Lexi, I certainly can understand where you were coming from. My incredibly negative review that I gave to the show really was in no way a general comment on Circle Theater, it was based solely on the very poor performance I saw of The Wedding Singer. Honestly, this was the first Circle Theater production I had ever seen, so I can only judge based on that. Sadly, this production was community theater quality, and if anything, I have seen far better shows performed by actual communities theaters. I do not doubt that other shows Circle Theater have done have been amazing, and I have heard really great things from other people, which is why I actually expected The Wedding Singer to be great as well. Unfortunately, it was not. I will have to assume though that with Circle Theater winning awards like you have mentioned, that they are overall a good company, they just didn’t get it right this time. Perhaps I will give them another shot with a different show in the future.

      I will, of course, have to still respectfully disagree with you assessments of Eric Lindahl, and the choreography though. Eric Lindahl’s performance in the show, at least the night I saw it, was absolutely unforgivably bad. It was so terrible that even if someone tried to convince me he was having a “bad night” that I could not believe it. I could try and overlook the poor acting, but his voice was a train wreck in this role, and I certainly can not forgive the lead in a professional show for screwing up cues, and whatever he was doing with the guitar. To me, it’s just unexcusable.

      As far as the choregraphy was concerned, I stand by my comments that it was, besides Eric, the weakest part of the show. I do not have a dance background, but several members of my group who were also at the show with me are dancers, and they spent the entire show cringing. I could see why. As I said, I just felt there were just too many moments were the choregraphy was either inappropriate, or even unneeded. Again, part of the comedy of the show is quick 80′s references, so to me it was just too obviously 80′s at all times, which made the 80′s references not funny. As I said though, I saw the Broadway production, and that’s something they did very successfully. Either way, no one could argue that the choregraphy was inventive or original by any means though. I can understand that some people may have thought it was great, but it isn’t anything we haven’t seen on stage before, and I just could not believe anyone trying to argue how inventive and exciting it was.

      That said, I am completely willing to say it’s just an “off” show for what is a pretty good theater company. Perhaps, it’s the same thing with the actors as well. Some people on here have rushed to Eric’s defense saying he’s won a Jeff, etc. That said, I’ve seen plenty of Tony winners give terrible performances in roles they weren’t suited for, not that Eric is Tony quality. Perhaps he’s just very talented, but miscast? I tell you though, if Eric, or the Wedding Singer as a whole, is nominated for any awards, it will certianly bring into question the seriousness of any awards they are nominated for.

  7. Jack says:

    Tim and Ian…sounds like sour grapes to me…

    • Ian says:

      With all due respect Jack, I don’t see how me giving my honest review qualifies me to join the “sour grapes” category, especially since you know nothing about me. If you disagree with me, that is perfectly fine, but I’m just giving my honest opinion on what I thought of the show. I’m sorry if you can’t take it that way, but saying it sounds like “sour grapes” to try and invalidate my feelings is kind of rude to be honest. I have no other motives/intentions beyond giving my opinion, and I certainly have no other unfair feelings towards any of the cast or for Circle Theater. I have no reason to. I was just an honest, unbiased audience member. Sorry if you couldn’t take it that way…

  8. Peg says:

    I REALLY enjoyed the show! The choreography was AMAZING, INVENTIVE, FUNNY!!!!!! Kevin Bellie finally has a big stage to work with here at the new venue. It is true Rachel Quinn’s voice is much better suited to the more traditional soprano roles. Everyone in the show was very talented and their dancing was simply amazing. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND The Wedding Singer at Circle Theatre now in Oak Park!

  9. Gess Howarth says:

    I absolutely love this show and I am going to attend the next one if they come to town.

    Gess

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