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Theater review: 'The Wedding Singer' at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center

July 14, 2011 |  1:43 pm

Wedding-Singer The '80s return in all their rad, gnarly 'tude to the Carpenter Performing Arts Center, where "The Wedding Singer" enjoys a pleasantly pro-forma regional premiere by Musical Theatre West.

As in the smash 1998 Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore film, the title hero is Robbie Hart (energetic Ciarán McCarthy), his New Jersey band opening with "It's Your Wedding Day." This surefire barnburner proclaims the show's aims, its high-octane corps vaulting through choreographer Spencer Liff's retro moves like Billy Idol and the Go-Gos on Ecstasy.

With the introduction of waitress Julia (lovely-voiced Renée Brna), things grow gradually synthetic. Composer Matthew Sklar and librettists Chad Beguelin and Tim Herlihy (author of the screenplay) exhibit competent craft, the nods ranging from Michael Jackson's glove to the water-splashed "Flashdance" iconography. Yet marrying period riffs to movie scenario doesn't guarantee emotional connection, or theatrical purpose.

Robbie and Julia's Act 2 duet, "If I Told You," is first-rate, and there are other noteworthy numbers under David Lamoureux's music direction. But their net effect isn't terribly original, with many bits lacking a proper button.

Director Larry Raben's staging could be tighter at times, nevertheless it's sleekly appointed, particularly Jean-Yves Tessier's club-worthy lighting, and the charming McCarthy and Brna head up a talented cast. Derek Keeling digs into Julia's smarmy fiancé; Jenna Coker-Jones' fellow waitress and Nick Bernardi and Matthew J. Vargo's band colleagues ham with abandon.

The statuesque Kelli Provart incinerates the house as Robbie's ex, versatile Tracy Lore instantly becomes various moms, and wonderful Mary Jo Catlett invests Robbie's hip grandmother with old-school aplomb. "Wedding Singer" is hardly a classic tuner, but the film's fans and era survivors should find it festive.

-- David C. Nichols

"The Wedding Singer," Carpenter Performing Arts Center, 6200 E. Atherton St., Long Beach. 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; 7 p.m. show, July 17. Ends July 24. $30-$80. (562) 856-1999, x4 or www.musical.org. Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes.

Photo: Ciarán McCarthy and Renée Brna. Credit: Alysa Brennan.

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