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LA Theater Review

The Wedding Singer

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Audiences familiar with the 1998 film starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore will likely compare it with this 2006 musicalized version that subtly tweaks the original's story and characters to suit the musical material.

Director-choreographer Curtis Jerome has two fine stars in David Farkas and Sarah Weismer. The pair wisely avoid characterizations that mimic the movie, making the roles their own, burrowing deep into characters and a storyline in which both Robbie Hart (Farkas), the titular wedding reception entertainer, and Julia Sullivan (Weismer), a young waitress at a banquet hall, are engaged to, respectively, a self-centered blond bimbo and a business whiz whose obsession with the material world makes him insufferable.

Rather than play Robbie as a sweet pushover, Farkas goes for a gentle figure of genuine sincerity. His character honestly delights in making others happy. Likewise, Weismer's Julia is self-effacing and good-hearted. Their mutual attraction is like their personalities: slow, steady, and often cautious. After Robbie's fiancée stands him up at the altar, Julia helps him through his darkest hour in scenes that are sweet without seeming saccharine.

Jerome surrounds his star duo with a solid supporting cast and a versatile 10-person ensemble. As Sammy, Robbie's guitarist, Jeff Haut wrings laughs from his character's wild-man actions and outrageous mullet (this is, after all, 1985). Marcus S. Daniel channels Sammy's opposite, Robbie's Pollyanna-ish, effeminate keyboard player.

Katy Harvey and Sherry Domerego are scene-stealers—Harvey as Sammy's fiery redheaded ex, Domerego as Robbie's always hot-to-trot grandma. Mark Torres is an absolute wanker as Julia's pushy, sleazy fiancé, while Gretchen Dawson makes Robbie's betrothed aptly narcissistic and slutty.

The choreography, costumes (by Heidi Newell), lighting (Jerome and Drew Boudreau), sound design (Brian Newell), and music direction (Benjamin Sagan) spell out "1980s" in extra-large letters, as does Sagan's keyboard work and directing of an offstage five-man rock combo as they perform Matthew Sklar's '80s-style score.

The staging's energy level is high through and through, without becoming wearying or appearing forced. It's Jerome's cast, however, that serves up on a silver platter this ode to the Reagan years, creating a nostalgia trip well worth taking.

Presented by and at Maverick Theater, 110 E. Walnut Ave., Fullerton. Feb. 18–Apr. 9. Fri.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m. (714) 526-7070. www.mavericktheater.com.

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