Wedding Singer an awesome trip down memory lane

by Keith Barber

Wedding Singer an awesome trip down memory lane

The Wedding Singer, a musical based on the popular 1998 Adam Sandler film, closed at New York’s Hirschfeld Theatre on Dec. 31, 1996, ending its seven-month Broadway run. Nearly three years later, the national touring company of The Wedding Singer, a musical homage to pop culture in the 1980s, riveted Greensboro audiences from the moment the talented performers took the stage at War Memorial Auditorium on Oct. 16.

J. Michael Zygo, who played the role of Robbie Hart, commanded the stage from the opening number, “It’s Your Wedding Day,” and continued to impress with his singing, dancing and acting talents.

Director M. Seth Reines should be commended for casting the husband-and-wife team of Jillian Nyhan Zygo and J. Michael Zygo in the lead roles of Robbie Hart and Julia Sullivan. Reines has worked with the Zygos on separate occasions, directing Jillian in the touring company production of Funny Girl and directing Michael in the national company of The Full Monty. The Zygos have previously worked together onstage in the touring company production of Oklahoma! Their natural chemistry added greatly to the entire Wedding Singer experience.

The Zygos and the entire company delivered great performances throughout the two-hour show despite a few minor technical glitches. The orchestra, conducted by A. Scott Williams, sounded appropriately like a rock band much of the time but overpowered the actors’ voices on a few occasions. The actors were wired for sound, which made it easier to hear the dialogue. However, it made the dramatic scenes feel contrived and artificial at times.

Robbie meets Julia while performing at a wedding the day before his own nuptials, but is left standing at the altar on his wedding day. Sammy, his bandmate, arrives to deliver a note from Linda.

Jennifer Gottlieb’s performance of “A Note from Linda” was reminiscent of a Joan Jett performance from 1985, as the orchestra hit the high end of the decibel range. Russell A. Thompson’s lighting design during Gottlieb’s performance gave it the fantasy-like quality of a 1980s music video. In fact, every aspect of the production from the performers to the lighting to the set design to the music was top notch.

The story of The Wedding Singer, written by Chad Beguelin and Tim Herlihy, is corny and predictable. But the pure enjoyment the actors appeared to be having onstage was infectious. As hard as the music purists in the audience might have fought the temptation to sing along, it was really hard not to join in the chorus of songs that are, in the words of Dick Clark, “the soundtrack of our lives.”

When J. Michael Zygo performed, “Somebody Kill Me Please,” in his bedroom — a ballad with hilarious lyrics, it was easy to imagine Adam Sandler strumming his guitar and drawing belly laughs on “Saturday Night Live.” At times, J. Michael Zygo appeared to channel Sandler’s Sad Sack character, yet revealed his brilliant intensity during the number, “Casualty of Love.”

When a depressed Robbie winds up sulking in a dumpster, Julia coaxes him out with her musical plea, “Come out of the Dumpster,” in one of the musical’s sweeter moments. Robbie’s perspective on love begins to transform as he spends more time with Julia. Then our hero finds his new goal — to win Julia’s affection. But first, our hero must overcome a significant obstacle — Julia’s fiancée Glen Guglia, a Wall Street shark in the Gordon Gekko mold. Robbie hops a flight to Las Vegas to stop the wedding. Along the way, he must finish writing the love song he was supposed to give his grandparents for their 50th anniversary. And then the moment of truth arrives.

The high-energy, Broadway-like performance by the cast of The Wedding Singer offered a rare treat for arts patrons in the Piedmont Triad. For the 40-somethings in the audience, the musical revived memories of a time when the world seemed a kinder and gentler place and our futures seemed so bright we had to wear shades.

The Wedding Singer, part of the Greensboro Coliseum’s Best ofBroadway series, pays tribute to the style and ethos of the 1980s.(courtesy photo)