Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

The Wedding Singer
Spotlight Youth Theatre

Also see Gil's reviews of Motown the Musical, Sweet Charity, The History of the Devil, and Avenue Q


David Samson, Karson Cook, Mason Reeves and Daniel Lyons
Turning hit movies into Broadway musicals hasn't always proven to be successful. For every hit film to stage transfer like The Producers there are flops like Ghost or Leap of Faith. The musical version of the 1998 Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore comedy hit film The Wedding Singer falls somewhere in between. While the show only had an eight-month Broadway run, it has a tuneful and energetic score and a script that includes a nice balance of comical situations and fun characters along with a huge dose of charm. Fortunately the show had several national tours, which helped let people become aware of the musical and has gone on to become a bit of a staple in regional theatres. Spotlight Youth Theatre's production of the show is a huge success. It has well thought out direction and choreography and a talented cast led by the exceptional Mason Reeves.

The plot of the musical follows the film script by Tim Herlihy fairly closely, with Herlihy and lyricist Chad Beguelin co-writing the musical's book, and the fun, upbeat score by Matthew Sklar. Set in 1980s New Jersey, Robbie Hart lives in his grandmother's basement and fronts a wedding band. When his fiancée Linda dumps him at his own wedding he starts to question love and makes everyone around him miserable, even antagonizing the attendees at the weddings where he performs. But things seem to be looking up when his recent friendship with the hopelessly romantic waitress Julia, who is recently engaged, appears to be something more once they share a very awkward, arranged kiss.

The dynamic duo team of husband and wife Mark and Lynzee 4Man co-direct the production, with Lynzee providing nonstop and always changing choreography and Mark supplying fine-tuned musical direction. They don't make a single misstep in their direction, providing a perfect balance between the comedy and dramatic moments and moving the show along at a brisk pace. They've assembled a stellar cast as well, all of whom inhabit their roles with ease.

If there is any doubt about the high caliber of teen performers in town, you need to look no further than the leads in this production. Mason Reeves is remarkable as Robbie. He brings a winning personality and a huge amount of charm to the part, making you truly care for Robbie. Add in Reeves' strong singing voice, sleek dance moves, and fine acting abilities and you have a triple threat on par with few other teenagers in town. His level of energy and commitment to the part make Robbie three dimensional. He even appears to play the guitar somewhat effectively on the two Adam Sandler and Herlihy penned songs that are carryovers from the film, with his performance of the act two "Grow Old with You" especially sweet and full of joy. It is a performance you will remember for a very long time.

Ali Whitwell is just as good as Julia, giving the character a sunny, optimistic view on life, even when things turn sour. Whitwell has a clear, strong singing voice that brings out the best of the romantic lyrics in her songs, especially the upbeat love duet "If I Told You." Like Reeves, her spunky charm and winning personality has us rooting for her character to succeed. The two actors create a decent amount of sizzle between them, enough to make us truly believe they have feelings for each other.

In the supporting cast, David Samson and Marley DeGroodt are fun as the dim-witted, on again, off again twosome Sammy and Holly; Karson Cook and Maggie Waller are hilarious as Robbie's bandmate George and his feisty grandmother Rosie; and Trey DeGroodt and Payton Bioletto bring a layer of conceited nastiness to the parts of Robbie's ex-fiancée Linda and Julia's fiancé Glen. All get a chance to show off their comic skills through humorous line readings as well as using their strong pipes in various solos, with Bioletto and Marley DeGroodt rocking out on their songs and Cook and Waller adding plenty of comedy to their numbers.

The ensemble is especially impressive, with each member required to portray numerous characters, which they all achieve admirably. Michael Schulz plays several humorous parts with ease; 14-year-old Addison Bowman has comic skills some professional actors twice her age haven't yet achieved; and Katie Czajkowski, who also serves as the dance captain, is particularly effective, even playing a couple of male roles in the ensemble numbers. Lynzee's choreography gives the whole cast plenty to do, with every number different, including the showstopping opening number "It's Your Wedding Day" and the sleek and sexy "All About the Green."

Michael Armstrong's set design is minimal, with no real sets except for the elaborate '80s themed walls that surround the audience. Though this is the only real downside of the production, Taylor Bader's prop design provides an abundance of furniture for set each scene, and a well-orchestrated cast makes the scene changes fly by, even though there are multiple tables, chairs, and even a bed that need to be quickly moved on and off stage. Lisa DeGroodt's costumes and Trey DeGroodt's superb hair and make-up designs represent the best and worst of the '80s, which means they work exceedingly well to bring the horrors of the era to vibrant life. Daniel Kersh's lighting and Kenny Grossman's sound design are both perfect, with the lighting providing an abundance of color and the sound nice and clear.

With exceptional direction and choreography and knock out costumes, hair and make-up, Spotlight Youth Theatre's The Wedding Singer is a fun-filled good time with a gifted cast of some of the best teenage actors in the Valley.

Spotlight Youth Theatre's production of The Wedding Singer runs through April 26th, 2015, with performances at 10620 N 43rd Avenue in Glendale. Tickets and information can be found at www.spotlightyouththeatre.org or by calling 602.843.8318

Directors: Mark and Lynzee 4Man
Musical Director: Mark 4Man
Choreographer: Lynzee 4Man
Costume Design: Lisa DeGroodt
Hair and Make-Up: Trey DeGroodt
Set Design: Michael Armstrong
Property Design: Taylor Bader
Lighting Design: Daniel Kersh
Sound Design: Kenny Grossman

Cast:
Robbie Hart: Mason Reeves
Julia Sullivan: Ali Whitwell
Sammy: David Samson
George: Karson Cook
Holly: Marley DeGroodt
Glen Guglia: Trey DeGroodt
Rosie: Maggie Waller
Linda: Payton Bioletto
Angie: Addison Bowman
Bum/David/Ronald Reagan/Ensemble: Michael Schulz
Slim Jim/Slick Ricky/Billy Idol/Ensemble: Daniel Lyons
Agent/Mookie/Ensemble: Jacob Herrera
Crystal/Tina Turner/Ensemble/Dance Captain: Katie Czajkowski
Cyndi Lauper/Tiffany/Ensemble: Ally Lansdowne
Danny/Mr.T/Ensemble: Alex Partida
Imelda Marco/Donatella/Ensemble: Meagan Montoya
Shane/Ensemble: Nate Barry
Ensemble: Alyssa Armstrong, Cate Carlino, Jessica Dolyniuk, Ryan Ferre, Levi Hoover


Photo: Wade Moran

--Gil Benbrook


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for Phoenix


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