Based on the 1998 Adam Sandler movie of the same name; “The Wedding Singer” follows the story of Robbie Hart, a charming and entertaining musician from Ridgefield, New Jersey. Left at the altar by his long-time fiancé and having developed feelings for his unhappily engaged co-worker Julia, Robbie’s story explores the confusion and temptations of a forbidden love with an incredibly humorous script and robust musical score. This week Oxagen Productions are staging the iconic musical at Genazzano College in Kew.
There’s no question that Ryan Purdy’s performance carries the show, bringing to life the charismatic and lovably naive ‘Robbie Hart’ by channeling the aspects of Adam Sandler’s original portrayal that made the story so iconic. Vocally Purdy excels, nailing each and every song thrown his way. Similarly impressive is Maddie Wooster’s ‘Holly’ who quickly becomes a crowd favourite due to both the sharpness of her character and her magnetic stage presence. Stefanie Fazzari’s ‘Julia’ fares quite well too, especially vocally. However, she struggles in some aspects of her character. Whether it be a fault of the sound mixing or a lack in Fazzari’s diction, her performance is quite difficult to understand and many sections of dialog sound quite muffled. Benito Veneziano and Johnathon White make up the other two thirds of “The Wedding Band”, and while both are responsible for a number of the show’s comedic highlights (George’s Prayer being suitably hilarious), there were moments in which they broke character and struggled with some of the material thrown their way. The remainder of the main cast unfortunately failed to make much of an impression – Alex Dehn as ‘Glen’ aced his character though struggled vocally, Kim Siemensma as ‘Grandma Rose’ was a casualty of poor direction, and Merryn Degnan as ‘Linda’ produced both one of the show’s highlights in “A Note From Linda” and one of the show’s most uncomfortable moments in “Let Me Come Home”.
Despite having such a large cast of performers on stage, there were moments throughout the show in which the ensemble failed to fill the space due to a lack of energy and concentration. Arguably more crucial than that of the main cast, it is the duty of the ensemble to ensure that they remain constantly in character and alert. The ensemble create the atmosphere to absorb the audience into the world of the production. Unfortunately, the chorus of “The Wedding Singer” on Wednesday night were unsuccessful in this respect. Of course there are exceptions to this, with many of the larger numbers benefiting from the influx of voices, with “It’s Your Wedding Day”, “Casualty of Love” and “Saturday Night in the City” being clear highlights. Special mention has to be made to Candice Piang-Nee, Tristan Lawrence and Bethany Giranrdi, who’s larger than life expressions and exemplary energy did not go unnoticed.
Breaking down the broader aspects of the production, it becomes apparent that there are a number of different elements that create the inconsistent result of the show. Keshia Contini has done an immensely impressive job in choreographing and maintaining the energy of script, especially in some of the larger dance numbers. Contini seemingly had no issues in utilising both the largeness of the space and size of the cast during musical numbers to create a show that’s visually entertaining. Similarly MD Nicolas La Mattina and Vocal Coach Matt Sheahan have done an incredible job in constructing the show from a musical point of view, paying Matthew Sklar’s original score incredible justice. However, both the lighting and set design struggle to impress and appear quite plain next to the fantastic selections of costumes. This specifically proves to be a real issue for the visual result of the performance, given how large and consuming the emptiness of the space can be.
Taking a step back and analyzing the production as a whole, the most glaring flaw is an abundance of missed potential, as well as a lack of preparation and polish. Perhaps if the company had one or two weeks more time before the premiere of the show, this would have been a very different review. Regardless of how negative this review may sound in certain areas, this is a production that is not without moments of greatness, and still makes for quite an entertaining show. However, in comparison to some of the other productions gracing the Amateur Theatre scene so far in 2016, Oxagen’s “The Wedding Singer” just doesn’t succeed enough to be particularly memorable.
For more information about the show or to book tickets, you can visit their website: http://oxagen.com.au/site/