Hart House Theatre’s The Wedding Singer Marries 80’s Music & Fun

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Scott Farley, Ashley Gibson, Isaac Bell, Romina Cortina, Howard Davis and Matt Pilipiak, photo Daniel DiMarco
Scott Farley, Ashley Gibson, Isaac Bell, Romina Cortina, Howard Davis and Matt Pilipiak, photo Daniel DiMarco

By Lori Bosworth

Wham!, Billy Idol, dresses with shoulder pads, the Clapper, Madonna’s “Material Girl” days, hairsprayed Tina-Turner-teased locks. If these memories happily occupy a part of your cerebral cortex, then you’ll want to hurry and see Hart House Theatre’s production of The Wedding Singer, which opened on January 10, 2013 at the University of Toronto St. George Campus. The Adam Sandler vehicle has been transformed to the stage with music by Matthew Sklar, lyrics by Chad Beguelin and direction by Luke Brown with much of the original charm and storyline intact.

Scott Farley, Ashley Gibson, Isaac Bell, Romina Cortina, Howard Davis and Matt Pilipiak, photo Daniel DiMarco
Scott Farley, Ashley Gibson, Isaac Bell, Romina Cortina, Howard Davis and Matt Pilipiak, photo Daniel DiMarco

It’s the ’80s and wedding singer Robbie Hart is to be married to Linda the next day, but is smitten by Julia, a waitress, while performing at a wedding reception. Julia, of course, is betrothed to another: Glen Guglia. Now where have we heard this plot before? In any case, Linda lets Robbie down at the altar and through his subsequent depression, he must find a way to wrangle the new love interest in his life away from Glen, all while sporting a mullet, participating in flashy dance numbers and singing sloppy love songs. It’s all quite fun and a lovely diversion from a dreary Toronto winter. Especially the rock dance numbers, of which there are plenty. “Casualty of Love” was a foot-stomping, memorable number while “Saturday Night in the City” featured thrilling choreography by Amanda Nagy, superb lighting from Dominic Manca and strong vocal backup from the chorus, especially from Ann Paula Bautista. You’ll think you’re back at the Bamboo Club. Howard Davis as Glen, the money-obsessed fiancĂ©, stepped out and showcased solid vocals while leading the tune “All About the Green.”

Cast of The Wedding Singer at Hart House Theatre, photo Daniel DiMarco
Cast of The Wedding Singer at Hart House Theatre, photo Daniel DiMarco

Robbie’s bandmate, George, is a Shakespearean fool parachuted 380 years later into this romantic comedy who adores attention and engages in double entendres and side winks. Played by Scott Farley with complete abandon and devilishness, Farley sure knows how to steal a scene.

Sarah Horsman as the seductive Linda was superbly confident with a formidable stage presence. She offered a commanding performance in the two scenes that focus on her character.

Set and Costume Designer Brandon Kleiman captured the bold and big theme of the ’80s by outfitting his cast in an authentic wardrobe, consisting of below-the-knee dresses, footless tights under bubble skirts, double-breasted, jewel-toned jackets and skintight tops. Kleiman’s gold-glittered drapes added the perfect touch to his dance club set.

The musical was not without opening night jitters including a few notes that didn’t quite find their mark from leads Isaac Bell (Robbie) and Ashley Gibson (Julia) early on in Act 1 and some sound issues at the beginning of Act 2. Fortunately, Bell’s and Gibson’s voices, which are both powerful, returned to form shortly, displaying remarkably cohesive harmonies in the duet, “If I Told You.” Both actors conveyed the sweet sensitivity of their characters.

I won’t spoil the surprise of the closing number. I’ll just say that it was a delightful end to an entertaining romp through a decidedly unself-conscious time.

Hart House Theatre’s The Wedding Singer plays until January 25, 2014 from Wednesday to Saturday at 8 p.m. and Saturday, January 25, 2014 at 2 p.m. Tickets are Adults $28, Seniors $17, Students $15, $10 Student tickets every Wednesday night, $17 Alumni tickets every Thursday.