Stage Struck Review

Reviews for theater within the greater Los Angeles area.

A Fine Frolic: “The Wedding Singer” in Covina

Kyle Caldwell (center) is The Wedding Singer at Covina CPA, backed with style by Ricky Wagner and Ryan Jones

Kyle Caldwell (center) is The Wedding Singer at Covina CPA, backed with style by Ricky Wagner and Ryan Jones

If one is going to see one of those rather cliche, tap-dancing musicals from the 30s, one does not expect depth. The reason to go is the dancing, the music, the comedy and the romance. So, that being true, why not consider embracing a musical from the late 1990s based on a film celebrating the eccentricities of the early 1980s in the same vein? If this appeals to you, then head on over to the Covina Center for the Performing Arts and their cheerful, lighthearted, often silly rendition of Matthew Sklar, Chad Beguelin and Tim Herlihy’s “The Wedding Singer.”

The production, under the direction of Wendy Friedman, proves just as well crafted as the show itself proves silly. The story pays homage to the 1998 movie: Robbie is the lead singer/performer in a band which has become known throughout New Jersey for a great wedding song, and thus a favorite at receptions. That’s great until his fiancé leaves him and his bitterness begins to infect his work. At the same time, Julia, who waits on people at a reception hall, becomes engaged to a boyfriend focused on finance who considers his new fiancé more as a trophy than a love interest. Can Robbie and Julia save each other?

Kyle Caldwell makes a highly entertaining Robbie – just over-the-top enough to make his struggles comic and his joys delightfully silly. He sings well, and can play the guitar enough to be convincing as a locally popular musician. Ryan Jones, as the band’s stereotypically randy bassist, and particularly Ricky Wagner as a veritable Boy George look-alike make entertaining counterpoint to Robbie’s angst, and prove equally musical.

It's all about the romance for Robbie (Kyle Caldwell) and Julia (Susanna Vaughan)

It’s all about the romance for Robbie (Kyle Caldwell) and Julia (Susanna Vaughan)

Susanna Vaughan makes an appealingly mainstream sweet young thing, as Julia. Jackie Bianchi has an absolute blast as her dissolute cousin, and Jabriel Shelton gives Julia’s fiancé all the intensity and hubris one expects from a Wall Street up-and-comer. Also worthy of note are Susan E. Silver as various moms, and Christina Marie Harrell as Robbie’s dedicatedly romantic grandmother. In two brief, but memorable appearances, Taj Johnson rocks the house as Robbie’s self-focused ex-girl.

Still, this is a very silly show. Along with fine individual performances, what makes it all work is a solid ensemble of dancer/actors who create incidental character after character, and dance up a storm. Lindsay Martin’s lively and evocative choreography really comes alive in the hands of these performers, and music director Richard Seymour manages to balance the vocal talents of the entire company with the recorded soundtrack in such a way that one soon forgets one is listening to pre-fab music.

Despite one moment where the thing should look a bit more Vegas-like, Dillon Nelson’s facile set proves terrific at keeping the pacing flowing – a necessity in such an episodic tale. Costumer Mark Gamez has the era down, right to the period wedding veils. The look helps make the show a true success.

In short, don’t go for depth, but for the same kind of sheer fun one might find at a production of “42nd Street” go see “The Wedding Singer.” One note: there is the occasional scatological reference, so be cautious about young children. Other than that, it will prove a great way to have a good time in the theater without carrying any particular baggage away.

What: “The Wedding Singer” When: Through May 3, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays Where: Covina Center for the Performing Arts, 104 N. Citrus Ave. in Covina How Much: $20-$30 Info: (626) 331-8133, ext. 1 or http://www.covinacenter.com

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3 responses to “A Fine Frolic: “The Wedding Singer” in Covina

  1. Vi April 21, 2015 at 9:37 AM

    Loved the show itself … vibrant, good comic relief, the music/singers and the characters were spot on! BUT the stage handling needs BIG help!! 3 characters lost the sound on their mikes (it’s a good thing it’s a small venue and the actors had strong voices!), the stage floor kept opening up or didn’t rise, and the speakers cracked horribly. Other than the stage snafus, I thoroughly enjoyed the play & the actors!

    • Frances Baum Nicholson April 21, 2015 at 1:14 PM

      Wow. That’s awful. I never include mic issues for small theaters anymore, because it’s so obvious, and happens so often at so many venues. Good sound equipment is difficult to get and expensive. However there were few mic issues the night I saw it. The stage floor traps only opened when they were supposed to that night as well. So, I’m sorry your experience was so off from my own. Believe me, dangerous traps not working would have been mentioned. I’m an old techie, so such things are important.

  2. Anonymous April 28, 2015 at 12:54 PM

    AMAZING SHOW……TALENTED CAST….if you want an evening of smiles and giggles and fun you have to see the Wedding Singer. Kyle Caldwell, who plays Robbie is perfect, he has great comic timing and a wonderful voice. All the cast is terrific. Go see it…you will have a blast from the past

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