REVIEW: THE WEDDING SINGER (Liverpool Empire) ★★★

The Wedding Singer Liverpool Empire

It’s time to party like it’s 1985 at the Liverpool Empire, as The Wedding Singer dances into town.

For those who may not have seen the movie starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, The Wedding Singer is essentially Romeo and Juliet with leg warmers and a perm. Good girl Julia (Juliet) is all set to marry her rich Wall Street fiancé, Glen (Paris), until she befriends wedding singer Robbie Hart (Romeo) who has been recently jilted by his now ex-fiancé Linda (Rosaline). What follows is a classic tale of forbidden love and, unlike its Shakespearean counterpart, we know we’ll get to their wedding in the end; it’s just a matter of waiting.

There is yet to be a successful incarnation of this infectious musical in the UK, and despite the bright and energetic pop score by Matthew Sklar, the party never really gets started in this production. The cavernous Liverpool Empire is notoriously difficult for sound chiefs in the touring circuit, and a show like this requires a real punch and clarity of lyric which we don’t get until someway through the night. It has nods to the 80s in the advertisement screen worked into Francis O’Connor’s pretty but sometimes clunky set design; though much of the costuming fails to pass the authenticity test.

Nick Winston’s high octane choreography is, as usual, thrilling to watch but sadly it is the quality of the scenes between the dance numbers that leave us wanting more. Ignoring various questionable American accents in the cast, this script requires true comedy and most of the jokes fall completely flat. The movie was so exceedingly funny that it isn’t enough to nail the dance sequences; the scenes require a lot more of a drive.

That said, Ruth Madoc provides a charming cameo as the rambunctious Grandmother, delivering a star turn during her rap (yes, you heard me correctly, rap!) with the flouncing Samuel J Holmes as George. Liverpool’s Ray Quinn is typecast brilliantly as the arrogant fiancé; obnoxious as ever and dancing up a storm with the ensemble too. Leading Lady Cassie Compton has some lovely moments and sings well, but between her forced accent and strained delivery she fails to live up to her leading man’s standard.

Thankfully, the driving force of the whole evening is the incredibly talented Jon Robyns as Robbie. He can sing, dance, act, play guitar, but, most importantly, he’s a funny guy. A necessary trait when you’re stepping into the shoes of Adam Sandler, and this production needs someone to drive the comedy, even if those around don’t always follow suit. His duet with Compton “If I Told You” is a beautiful moment and the boys bar room number “Single” is the highlight of the evening.

All in all it’s a bit of fun and builds to a lovely climax with some interesting cameos by way of Vegas impersonators (Don’t ask!). It’s full of catchy soundalike 80s songs, a happy ending and who doesn’t enjoy a wedding?!

Reviewed by Tate James