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Published: Saturday, 10/3/2009

Heavy on charm, not substance

BY NANCIANN CHERRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

If ever there was a Broadway musical that defined the word "cute," it is The Wedding Singer.

The predictable boy-meets-girl story based on the 1998 Adam Sandler-Drew Barrymore movie is filled with references to the 1980s, from "Where's the Beef?" to Pong to Richard Simmons' "Sweating to the Oldies."

And if you don't know what those are, you've just missed three-quarters of the fun of the show.

Real-life husband and wife J. Michael and Jillian Zygo play Robbie Hart and Julia Sullivan. He's the leader of a band that plays for weddings, and she's a waitress for a caterer. They meet at a wedding where Robbie saves the day by cutting off a sloppy-drunk best-man's speech and tactfully soothes a lot of hurt feelings.

The attraction is instant … and also too late. Robbie is getting married the next day to Linda, and Julia is engaged to Glen. These are not matches made in heaven. Robbie and Julia are gentle romantics. Linda and Glen wholeheartedly embrace the amoral material-world clichs of the times.

When Linda dumps Robbie at the altar, he goes into a tailspin of depression and wrecks the next wedding he works. Julia sets out to get him back on track.

If the humor of the show comes from clichs, the heart comes from charm. The two leads radiate sweetness and likability, and they are solidly supported by Adam Clough as the mullet-wearing bass player, Sammy; April Monte as Julia's hard-partying cousin Holly; Ben Martin as a Boy George-wannabe; and Ellen Karsten as Robbie's randy grandmother, Rosie.

Shain Fike and Jennifer Gottlieb as Glen and Linda are a lot of fun as the villains of the piece, and the dancing is high-energy and goofy. Remember the worm, the robot, and moon dancing? They're here.

On the downside, the amount of profanity and sexual innuendo is overly abundant for such a light-hearted romantic comedy. It might be true to the times, but it's disconcerting these days. Think hard about bringing kids to this one.

Another downside is the Stranahan's sound system. Solo singing is generally clear and understandable, but the ensemble numbers become a mishmash of sound. Their intent is clear but not the words.

The Wedding Singer is one of the less memorable of the recent spate of Broadway shows inspired by movies; it's neither as winning as Hairspray nor as involving as The Lion King.

A better comparison would be to another icon of the 1980s, Trivial Pursuit. Filled with occasionally obscure but now-humorous cultural references, the show is no more and no less than a pleasant way to pass an evening.

"The Wedding Singer" continues at the Stranahan Theater, 4645 Heatherdowns Blvd., at 2 and 8 p.m. today and 2 and 7 p.m. tomorrow. Tickets range from $23 to $55. Information: 419-381-8851.

Contact Nanciann Cherry at: ncherry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6130.



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