‘The Wedding Singer’ at Riverside Center Dinner Theater

Riverside Center Dinner Theater presents The Wedding Singer, based on the hit New Line Cinema Film written by Tim Herlithy. With a book and lyrics by Chad Beguelin and Tim Herlithy and music by Matthew Sklar, this lighthearted production is a good way to spend a hot summer night.

Richie Barrella and Kelsey Sheppard. Photo by Tom Rothebberg for the Free-Lance Star.
Richie Barrella and Kelsey Sheppard. Photo by Tom Rothebberg for the Free-Lance Star.

Scenic Designer Scott M. Lily uses a Rubix Cube as his inspiration for the stage, and the effect is very 80’s. Large set pieces are wheeled on and offstage throughout the show, including a bedroom set (complete with posters of Farrah Fawcett and Star Wars), a large dumpster, and lengths of tulle wrapped around paper lanterns for a banquet hall. A large projection screen shows further scenery, including a couple of skylines and a littered alleyway. Bright, neon lights were in order for this dated show, and designer Nicky Mahon delivers (there’s also a great scene with a glittery disco ball to watch out for). I’m sure Costume Designer Jeremy Lagunas had a ton of fun with this project– if it was a popular style in the 80’s, it was represented. Acid-washed jeans and dresses with big shoulders (on girls with even bigger hair) was the standard for this show.

The show begins with fun-loving wedding singer Robbie Hart (Richie Barrella) amping up a wedding reception with the upbeat song “It’s Your Wedding Day.” He befriends waitress Julia Sullivan (Kelsey Sheppard) and promises to sing for her upcoming wedding. However, when his own fiancé Linda (Sheri Hayden) abandons him at the altar in the song “Note from Linda,” Robbie spirals into a depression. When a miserable Robbie later sings a reprisal of “It’s You Wedding Day” at another reception, his heartbreak proves too much for him, and what once was a celebratory song turns into a bitter, uncontrollable rant. After being thrown into a dumpster by a group of angry groomsmen, he is consoled by Julia in the song “Come Out of the Dumpster,” and she talks him into helping her plan her own wedding to help take his mind off his troubles.

Of course, things get complicated when it becomes clear that Robbie and Julia have some serious chemistry. While shopping together at the mall, they playfully argue in the number “Not That Kind of Thing,” when salespeople continue to assume that they are a couple in love. It also doesn’t help the matter that Julia’s fiancé Glen Guglia (Calvin Malone) is a womanizing troll, and Robbie is apparently the only person who can see it. Jealousy, heartbreak, and confusion make emotions run rampant…can Robbie make Julia see Glen for who he really is? Will Julia come to terms with her conflicting feelings?

There are some great song-and-dance numbers in this show, thanks to musical director Garrett Jones. Director and Choreographer Christopher Noffke uses quintessential 80’s dance moves (think Madonna and Michael Jackson’s Thriller) in the group numbers, my favorites being “Casualty of Love” and “Saturday Night in the City.”

“Pop!” is another fun number, and “George’s Prayer” was particularly enjoyable, as was the performance by Darian Lunsford as George. The hilarious (if gut-wrenching) “Somebody Kill Me” is a song that I remembered well from the movie and was looking forward to seeing onstage, and I was not disappointed!

While the principal actors both did a fine job, I must say that it was the supporting cast that shone the brightest here. Sheri Hayden as Linda easily had the strongest voice of the bunch, shown in her song “Let Me Come Home.” Christina Carlucci was great as Julia’s cousin Holly, a free-spirited Madonna fan who had a complicated relationship with Robbie’s band mate Sammy (Kyle Timson, who gave a fun-filled performance). Perhaps the audience’s most favorite number was Grandma Rosie’s “Move That Thang,” sung by Carol Hagy. The strength of this ensemble comes from the lesser roles.

Summertime is about lighthearted fun, and you will find it here at Riverside Center Dinner Theater’s production of The Wedding Singer.

Running Time: Approximately two and a half hours, including one 15-minute intermission.

The Wedding Singer plays through September 6, 2015 at Riverside Center Dinner Theater– 95 Riverside Parkway, in Fredericksburg, VA. For tickets, call (540) 370-4300.



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