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The Wedding Singer at The Liverpool Empire Theatre

by Chris High. Published Wed 31 May 2017 08:43, last updated: 31/05/17

Even after all this time, it is good to know that reviewing can still hold a few surprises. It wasn’t with too much excitement that The Wedding Singer – which is currently running at The Liverpool Empire Theatre - was added to the old ‘to-do’ list, in all honesty.

Yet, again in truth, what came out of left field entirely was that, despite being emotionally puddle deep and notwithstanding it being almost totally bereft of originality story wise, here is a show that simply revels in the ‘F’ Word … FUN!

Here’s the story then. Boy meets girl. Girl is marrying nasty business man / boy is marrying heartless tart . Fate (in a very un-Shakespearian manner – despite a balcony scene which is, ahem, well, there) drives them apart / together / apart … together … and so they all live happily ever after.

There it is, the magnitude of the plot but, ah, that which is contained within is – at times – nothing short of being comedic gold.

Part Avenue Q without the puppets in its irreverence, part just about every schmaltzy Rom-Com ever devised, The Wedding Singer gets on and takes the Mickey out of itself and everything else that was truly terrible about the 1980s. There’re even trailers of the popular movies of 1985 before the show starts, just to set the mood, and billboard adverts that sum up the cheese factor some more. Most of which, looking back – like the show entire, but in a good way – could arguably have been sponsored by Dairylea even back then!

The eighties references don’t stop there either. With dialogue ripped from lyrics such as those iconic songs performed by Madonna, Whitney, Ah-Ha et all, Ray Quinn’s Glen Gulia (modelled on Gordon Gecko from Wall Street perhaps?) drips nastiness; just stopping short of saying ‘Lunch is for wimps’, the Strictly winning Scouser oozes the Yuppie iconography to the max.

Stephanie Clift’s Holly is surely modelled on another 80s icon, Bette Midler, though more in Ruthless People mode than of her character in Beaches amongst others; her zany intensity is all but impossible not to appreciate, as are Clift’s abundant singing talents.

“National Treasure” is a term that can be often overused and / or misplaced. However, there really is no other way to describe Ruth Madoc and it’s good to see that not only is she clearly loving her involvement as Rosie, the extremely street-wise mother-in-law-to-be-with-attitude, but is actually hilarious at times and never more so than during the number, Move That Thang!

As for the songs, although they might appear to be a bit ‘samey’ (actually scratch that: although the songs are all the same, just faster or slower versions of themselves), it is the lyrics that bring the joy.

Kill Me Now will bring tears of hilarity, whereas A Note From Linda and Let Me Come Home – both performed played with let’s say "enchanting feistiness" by Tara Verloop - puts some of the stuff from Spamalot right in the shade.

Overall it is both Jon Robyns as Robert Hart and Cassie Compton as Julia Sullivan (See! R & J again or, if you prefer, by the end, Richard & Jennifer from Hart-to-Hart: Get it?) who really carry the show along with such gusto and magical chemistry.

Robyns has a singing voice that deserves, and will surely receive, stronger story lines that’s for sure, but it is his timing and delivery that is glittering here.

The bar scene that takes place in a bar during Act II is seriously funny, whereas his attempts at writing his bride-to-be the perfect wedding song is just … well, go see for yourselves. Suffice to say, 'Formaldehyde' gets a mention and it’s not often you can say that about a ballad!

Compton, too, delights in the understatement Julia has to bring to the show, but nevertheless demonstrates that there is nothing understated about either voice or her skills. Her cool absurdity at times becoming the perfect foil for the chaos that’s transpiring around her.

Her straight-faced appeal during the absolutely brilliant Dumpster scene is almost worth the ticket price on its own, as is the feeling she puts into the reprise of Grow Old With You.

So with the dread of dreck dispelled early doors, the only real criticism is that The Wedding Singer doesn’t have that all important show stopping number to have you humming all the way home. Yet with that said, what it does have are a lot of giggle-to-yourself-on-the-bus moments, which is a far better quality overall surely.

The Wedding Singer
The Liverpool Empire Theatre
May 30 – June 3, 2017
Cast Includes: Jon Robyns, Cassie Compton, Ray Quinn, Ruth Madoc, Stephanie Clift, Ashley Emerson, Samuel Holmes
Director / Choreographer: Nick Winston
Music: Matthew Sklar
PR Rating: **** Fun



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