Reviewed by Siobhan Bridgwater
The Hippodrome is one of Bristol’s much loved theatres and tonight (Tuesday 14 March 2017) it played host to a super-charged production of the stage adaptation of the hit film, The Wedding Singer. This rocket of a show is based on the book by Chad Beguelin and Tim Herlihy with wonderful music and lyrics by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin.
As the audience enters the magnificent auditorium to find their seats, the curtain is already up, displaying an eye-catching scene. The stage is framed by a spectacularly large, multi-columned lighting arrangement and clips from 1985 hit movies are projected onto a suspended screen, already transporting us back in time, whilst we wait.
As the theatre darkens and hush descends, the stage suddenly explodes into a riot of action, assaulting the senses. A wedding party fills the stage, in full swing, with the bride and groom and their guests dancing the night away in crazy synchronicity. Centre stage is the wedding band, pumping out their set, enhanced by the wonderful orchestra in the pit, perfectly complimenting and adding considerable volume and atmosphere to the party. And if that is not enough, the whole stage is awash with light and colour from every angle. We are off with a bang. The pace is set and there is no let up from here on in.
The show loosely follows the original film storyline. Our hapless wedding singer Robbie Hart (Jon Robyns), is a penniless musician whose head is unexpectedly turned by a sweet-natured waitress Julia Sullivan (Cassie Compton) on the eve of his wedding. Unfortunately, vampy, and slightly terrifying wife-to-be, Linda (Tara Verloop), sends a note, rather than putting in an appearance, on the Big Day. After being jilted at the alter, a broken hearted and angry wedding singer is no longer the perfect accompaniment to the happy, love-filled celebrations of others.
Jon Robyns and Cassie Compton are very well cast in their roles of hopeless romantics with endearing characterisations and absolutely note perfect performances. They are both sensational. In addition, the supporting actors certainly turned up with stunning performances from foxy Roxanne Pallett as Julia’s friend Holly and the flawless Ray Quinn, as Julia’s slick, rich, cheating boyfriend Glen. Robbie’s hilarious bandmates Sammy (Ashley Emerson) and George (Samuel Holmes) add even further colour and humour in abundance. But it is Ruth Madoc who seriously threatens to steal the show. She is unrecognisable as Robbie Hart’s flamboyant, straight talking grandmother who is always on hand with some sage and sobering advice. She plays her part brilliantly and has lost none of her impeccable comedic timing and twinkle. This woman is showing absolutely no signs of slowing down and keeps up admirably with her, mainly, much-younger cast members.
This adaptation is not the cute, bubblegum rom-com I remember from the film. It has an edge to it and has been considerably spiced up with some expletives and sexual references from the start. Within the first fifteen minutes, the drunk best man (Mark Pearce) treats us to a variety of crude jokes and inappropriate uses of champagne bottles and microphones. This is a theme which continues throughout the night making the show unsuitable, in parts, for a younger audience. There is a lot of thrusting, grinding and dry humping along the way with some pretty, uncomfortable sexualised scenes in Act 2.
However, all that said, this production never seems to stand still for a moment. The cast are in perpetual motion, with their jaw-dropping routines and boundless energy. There are an incredible number of set alterations, with equipment constantly coming on and off the stage. The wing and rafter lights are continually changing colour, flashing or moving, along with many different back projections, spots and strobes, and the suspended screen goes up and down like a yo-yo.
The show is hi-octane and hugely entertaining. Unbelievably, some cast members even have the reserves to throw in a few extra somersaults for the final curtain call.
Tickets cost from £16.50 to £49.50 (plus £4 transaction fee).
The Wedding Singer is at the Bristol Hippodrome from 14-18 March 2017. For more information or to book tickets visit www.atgtickets.com/bristol or call the box office on 0844 871 3012.
Bristol Hippodrome, St Augustine’s Parade, Bristol, BS1 4UZ | 0844 871 3012