‘The Wedding Singer’ Is New to Surflight Stage

New Jersey-Based Reminder of 1980s
Jul 17, 2018

Surflight Theatre is, uh, dramatically shifting gears as it replaces “Jesus Christ Superstar” with “The Wedding Singer” main stage production that runs through Aug. 5.

The wedding singer in question is Robbie Hart. The show opens with an excited Robbie telling the crowd at a gig that he himself is going to be married the very next day. While performing he meets a waitress, Julia Sullivan, who he immediately befriends. After the wedding reception has concluded, she helps him write a love song for Linda.

Their effort is wasted. Linda leaves Robbie high and dry, penning a note that says she wants to be the wife of a rock star, not a wedding singer. In truth, Robbie isn’t much of a catch, considering he lives with his grandmother Rosie in Ridgefield!

Meanwhile, Julia goes out to dinner with her beau, Wall Street banker Glen Guglia. He asks her to marry him and she is as happy as Robbie is sad.

Indeed, Robbie isn’t merely sad. He is in a state of deep depression, so deep that he ruins his next gig by enraging the guests and ends up being thrown into a trash bin by the angry groom and crowd. Julia urges him to buck up, and he does to a certain extent. But his career nosedives, considering he will no longer sing at weddings but only at bar mitzvahs.

Long story short: Robbie falls in love with Julia. But he is at a severe disadvantage when compared to the wealthy Glen.

Hey, this is a musical comedy based on the 1998 movie of the same name that starred Adam Sandler, who once specialized in lovable loser roles. So you know Robbie and Julia are going to get married, with true love beating out financial security in the end. What makes the show interesting – and funny – is the long, convoluted process that brings them together, including a helping hand from a group of Las Vegas impersonators such as Billy Idol, Mr. T., Ronald Reagan, Tina Turner, Cyndi Lauper, Nancy Reagan and Imelda Marcos. If Adam Sandler’s early movies rooted for the underdog, they also were hilarious thanks to their goofiness.

“The Wedding Singer” is also an ode to the 1980s. Many elderly persons remember the 1950s as an American golden age. But those folks in their late middle age were mere toddlers when “Ike” Eisenhower was president. So they’re more likely to look back on Reagan’s 1980s as a better time. After all, the economy was good, memories of the Vietnam War and Watergate were fading away, citizens of eastern European nations were breaking the USSR’s long-held stranglehold and Al-Qaeda was in its infancy while ISIS was only a gleam in some fanatic’s eye.

“How quickly,” Ben Brantley of the New York Times wrote when reviewing the Broadway opening of “The Wedding Singer” in 2006, “our dreary yesterdays become bright, cute and endlessly repackageable. The 1980s, it seems, are to today what the 1950s were to the 1970s: a supposedly more innocent, picturesquely dopey time when people wore quaint clothes, listened to infectiously inane music and danced goofy tribal dances. Ah, how we laughed.”

Brantley went on to write how composer Matthew Sklar and the Broadway show’s choreographer paid tribute to the 1980s.

“Entire stretches of dialogue are composed of titles of vintage songs, which are imitated as dutifully as copyright law allows in Mr. Sklar’s pastiche score. And Rob Ashfor’s choreography is replete with literal-minded tributes to 1980’s music videos for era-defining songs like ‘Thriller,’ ‘Material Girl’ and ‘Flashdance.’”

Put simply, if you miss the 1980s you won’t want to miss Surflight’s “The Wedding Singer.”

The show will be performed at 8 p.m. on July 18-21, 24-28 and 31, as well as August 1-4. Matinees at 2 p.m. are scheduled for July 19, 22, 24, 29 and 31, and on Aug. 5.

Tickets are $39 for adults and $29 for children 12 years of age and younger. They may be purchased online at surflight.org, by phone at 609-492-9477 or at the box office, located at 201 Engleside Ave., Beach Haven.

— Rick Mellerup


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