The Charleston Light Opera Guild’s summer comedy, “The Wedding Singer,” which opened Friday night in Charleston Civic Center’s Little Theater, appeals across the board to an audience of all ages. Based on the 1998 Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore film of the same name, the comedy follows star-crossed lovers Robbie Hart (Scott Jarrell) and Julia Sullivan (Lauren Meyer) as they bumble their way through the minefield of dating in the 1980s.
Filled with clichés and sappy-but-endearing showtunes, the musical is lighthearted and riotously entertaining.
Jarrell does a good job as the goofy, washed-up rock musician-turned-wedding singer. Jilted at the altar by his bride-to-be, Linda (Allison Whitener), Hart finds himself alone in his bedroom in the basement of his grandmother’s house, penning “Kill Me Please,” an angry rock ballad (written by Sandler for the movie). The profanity laced ‘80s-style metal song left the audience cackling uproariously and set the tone for a lighthearted farce about the pitfalls of love.
Whitener as Linda had only two numbers in the show but managed to make them two of the most memorable pieces of the night.
With pink Cyndi Lauper hair, fingerless fishnet gloves and Stevie Nicks-style special effects, she commandeered the stage with force, leaving the audience on the knife edge between hilarity and amazement, as she dumped Hart at the altar and, later, when she makes a last-ditch effort to win him back and thwart his budding romance with Julia.
Whitener was not the only member of the supporting cast to get a raucous reaction from the audience. The supporting members of Hart’s wedding band, Sammy (Cameron Lucas Burford) and George (Mark Edward Parsons-Justice) gave phenomenally entertaining solo performances that had audience members guffawing with laughter.
During the second act, George, who’s character very much resembles Boy George of the ‘80s, was joined on stage by Hart’s grandmother, Rosie (Rebecca Mullins), for a rap number, “Move That Thing,” replete with stunt-double breakdancers.
Sammy also had a hysterical duet with his on-again, off-again love, Holly (Kaitlin Kouns). The two of them danced and sang their way in and out of love through the show but culminated the rancorous relationship with the acrobatic “Right in Front of Your Eyes.”
The show was over the top with the corny ‘80s references, big hair and hideous clothes, but that added to the charm of what otherwise would be the standard plot of most romantic comedies.
Jarrell and Meyer did a plausible job as bumbling young adults who supposedly fall in love without realizing it until the very last moment.
Honestly, though, the romantic numbers did little to add to the entertainment factor of the show and seemed more like necessary devices to move the plot along.
The songs, while not the stick-in-your-head memorable tunes you will sing for years to come, are still entertaining. The comic numbers are much better than the somewhat flat attempts at romantic ballads, but this is not the fault of the cast, which was stellar at every turn.
The real charm of “The Wedding Singer” rests in the nostalgia many of us hold for those burgeoning days of self-discovery, arguably bad music and really tacky fashion. Although I greatly enjoyed the musical, I think I would have liked it just a touch more if it had leaned a little more heavily towards the music I remember from that era instead of just referencing it in jokes.
Overall it is a fun, lighthearted and entertaining show and a fine way to spend an evening. If you would like to catch “The Wedding Singer” it plays again at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday.