The Wedding Singer NODA Review
National Operatic & Dramatic Association
Society : MAOS
Production : The Wedding Singer
Date : 15th – 18th March 2017
Venue : The Shelley Theatre, Marlow
Report by : Susan Boobyer-Pickles
This was our first visit to a MAOS show and we were made very welcome by President Jo and Chairman Heather - thank you. The Wedding Singer is one of the more modern musicals gaining exposure from amateur theatre groups, it is versatile and can be performed with both a small or a large ensemble. Set in 1985 gives great scope to mullets, big hair, big make-up and colourful and questionable fashion. An era I well remember including a few scary fashion moments of my own too !!
The simple staging was very effective – the live band was placed at the back of the stage with a raised dais in front for the “Wedding Singer” band. Black tabs and an extremely nice multi-coloured LED rear star cloth was used to create the ambiance as required.
Placing the band on stage always seems to create issues either with song cues, balance or volume however there were no obvious impact by this positioning. A good sound was created from the talented 5 piece band under the guidance of MD - JOHN BROOKS. Both players and singers were well rehearsed and could use the cue screens effectively.
All props and furniture items were well presented and scene changes executed quickly without fuss mainly done by the cast. I know this takes a reasonable amount of time to co-ordinate and choreograph so well done to all involved and to SARAH PARKINS and MADELEINE BLAKE for the overall planning. The bed is always a tricky issue but I thought your solution was very well conceived. The blow up bed was bed sized, nice and bouncy which added to the humour in the key scenes and was easy to get on and off stage even for a lady – it certainly negated any horrid and long scene change – flick of a wrist and off it went!
A large technical team, overseen by RAYMOND, STEPHAN and ANDREW MEDHURST, managed lighting and sound. A nice lighting plot incorporating spotlights, the LED sky cloth and other interesting effects and it was nice to see the use of the multi-coloured LED’s. Sadly a few times the actors in the spots seemed to have their heads in shadow; clearly we don’t know if the actors where off their marks, there was an issue on the night or that our seating location affected the situation…we hope that this issue can be addressed in the future. Sound was also well managed with a lot of radio mics being used, there were no major issues although several of the actors where a little quiet in dialogue but at the end of the day mics can’t help here – in a few cases a little more projection would have been beneficial. We raise these small points as we are sure with such a talented team, issues can be ironed out in the future. Well done to all the operators involved in light and sound.
As well as Directing and Asst Directing HEATHER BUSTIN and KATY MITCHELL seemed to have taken on costumes as well ! What a huge task you had with such a large cast. It really was a dodgy time the 80’s for fashion and it was good to see lots of period appropriate costumes, neon, ra ra’s alongside, lots of colour plus of course the big hair and big make-up. All players looked good under the lights and costumes were clean and tidy.
This show was sensitively choreographed by SAMANTHA CLEAVER and RACHEL DIXON. For the group numbers movement was created that was suitable for all the players and much of which was done with good timing and co-ordination. Everyone looked well-rehearsed.
I firstly wanted to mention the ensemble who owned the stage right from the start performing with boundless energy. It is nice to see everyone dancing in the cast but with so many people on the stage it was inevitable that some would be a little hidden. However, as nearly everyone had other small parts / characters to play we did get to appreciate the talents of everyone throughout the evening – this was a nice touch and ensures that a society engages with all its members. Everyone embraced the parts they were allocated – some people with quite a few costume changes – so really well done all. A good ensemble really makes a show and I appreciated that there was much smiling throughout the major numbers – I cannot emphasise the importance that a happy looking cast makes on an audience. I particularly wanted to comment the opening number “It’s your wedding day”, “Saturday night in the city” and “All about the green”. I also loved the whole restaurant scene with all the engagements – really funny.
Robbie Hart – ZAC ABBOTT – a very natural performance from Zac that in no way looked forced / over acted which is good as Robbie is quite a laid back character. I am assuming that Zac could actually play the guitar which was a great bonus – and if you weren’t playing then the acting and synching with the band member was excellent !! Robbie has some great numbers in the show and I was particularly struck with Zac’s rendition of “Awesome, the wonderful expressiveness during “Somebody Kill Me” and of course the “Dumpster” number. The leap into the dumpster was pretty brave and very effective. Well done on a really great portrayal.
Julia Sullivan – HELEN BROWN – a really good understanding of the Julia character, beautifully underplayed with great facial expression throughout. Helen has a wonderful singing voice and all her numbers were really well delivered. There was also a nice empathy between Helen and her fellow actors – I suspect people feel really safe when she is around even if stuff happens!. From time to time the dialogue was a little quiet so perhaps some further projection would be beneficial but I can understand how hard it is to pitch volume just right. Helen has a very open face and wonderful smile which manages to embrace all the audience.
Sammy – ANDREW BUSTIN – as part of the Wedding Band and Robbie’s mate Sammy is very much the foil for both Robbie and the over the top George so well done for holding your own. I commend you for the accent and while it slipped from time to time it was a great effort. You had a lovely character – suit, wig – and were completely believable as an 80’s boy band member. There was a good rapport between Robbie, Sammie and George which was lovely to watch.
George – LAURIE ASHER – clearly a very talented actor. Laurie had a great stage presence and was able to handle the comedic nature of the character and the delivery of the funny lines perfectly. There is a tendency to try to over deliver the funny lines but Laurie was totally into the rather dour character. Loved all the little touches when playing the instrument and of course “Georges Prayer”.
Holly – LUCY NEWELL – oh how I loved this character. Holly is down to earth, plain speaking, bright and over the top and Lucy played her brilliantly. Holly and Julia are really Ying and Yang and Lucy was a great support and contrast to Helen. I really enjoyed “Right in front of your eyes” which was sung with great conviction and “Single”
Glen Guglia – MARK NEWELL – a very convincing and charming baddie. Mark played the part really in well in that we didn’t exactly hate him but honestly who would want to be Julia Guglia !!. Glen is confident in his social standing and his ability to get the girl and Mark conveyed this well.
Rosie – ANNIE WATT – the character of Gran demands an ability to really move and so you need a super fit older person or a younger person to age up. Annie did a great job acting Rosie but I think a few things could have been done to enhance the character. The make-up used was really quite glam so a more aging make-up might have helped and perhaps a slightly lower voice tone – costume and wig were perfect for the character. That aside the performance was really enjoyable so good on you for taking on the challenge.
Linda – HELEN ASPINALL – the antithesis to Julia, Linda is a wonderful character to play. Helen really embraced the goth/rock character especially in the “Let me come home” number although we did lose the words a bit at times. However, sometimes you just have to let it go and you certainly did that. I very much enjoyed “The Note” which was sung with real empathy and control – it was very funny but a little bit sad too. Well done.
I hope you received your new programmes in time for the final performances and if you want to enter them into next year’s awards then do make sure to keep 5 copies for submission early next year. We will send all the paperwork and rules in due course.
Both Terry and I really enjoyed our evening and look forward to future MAOS shows, thank you for making us welcome.
Susan Boobyer-Pickles (and Terry Hunt)
Regional Representatives, London District 14