My pal Dave Lavender files this excellent story about The Wedding Singer (and you can see some photos from the show right here):
There hasn't been this much hair and zebra print spandex on stage in Huntington since Poison opened up for Motley Crue at the Huntington Civic Arena back in the 1980s.
Armed with top-shelf local theatrical rocker Ryan Hardiman as Robbie Hart and Steve Freeman's colorful Rubik's Cubes gone wild stage set, Ritter Park Amphitheater is ready to party like its 1985 for the next four weekends as Huntington Outdoor Theatre presents the musical comedy, The Wedding Singer.
Friday, July 1, Hardiman, sporting a fresh "bi-level" (not a mullet) haircut, and the cast, pile everyone into the proverbial Delorean for a musical trip back in time to 1985 New Jersey for the delicious pop-rock show fueled by an on-stage rock band directed by Mark Smith spider-fingering over Roland synthesizers.
Showtimes are 8:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday, July 1-3, as well as July 8-10, 15-17 and July 22-24.
You'll want to get there early as gates open at 6:30 p.m. for picnicking or to enjoy the full concessions. The children's pre-show starts at 7 p.m. "It's an '80s Flashback," is directed and choreographed by Smith and Kerri Easter Stambaugh, featuring such '80s pop nuggets as Michael Jackson's "Beat It," Toni Basil's "Mickey," and Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Want to Have Fun."
Tickets are $15, and $12 for children ages 5-12 and seniors 65 and older. Free for children younger than 5. Groups of 20 or more are $11.
There's also a Sunday family special of four tickets for $40.
Hardiman, who has performed 10 times with the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra and who has rocked the stage mic in such productions as Charleston Light Opera Guild's production of Rent, said everyone in the H.O.T. musical family is excited for The Wedding Singer, since they were set to do it two years ago.
At that time, H.O.T. founder and director Helen Freeman had already cast The Wedding Singer when the Broadway touring production of the show came through pulling the rights for H.O.T. to produce the musical that is based on the hit comedy movie from 1998 that starred Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. Freeman had to punt and shift gears for the '50s rock musical, All Shook Up, putting The Wedding Singer on the back burner.
Well known TV personality Kennie Bass, who works with Hardiman at WCHS-TV, and who has been in a slew of Charleston productions said he and Hardiman have been anticipating the fun-filled production for the past two years.
Who can blame them?
In a vintage Flock of Seagulls mullet wig, Bass, cast as Hardiman's bandmate, gets to deliver such hilarious stage lines as "Are you forgetting why we joined this band? Money for nothing and chicks for free," quoting the Dire Straits' tongue-in-cheek song, "Money for Nothing."
For those not familiar with the '80s pop-culture-packed film and musical, The Wedding Singer is like an '80s family-friendly version of the Jersey Shore - all the drama, fighting and mess - hold the profanity and vulgarity.
It is set in Ridgefield, N.J., in 1985 where the state's best wedding singer, Robbie Hart, is tearing up the reception circuit with his band buddies Sammy (played by Bass) and George (played by Shayne Gue), before his blond-bombshell fiancée Linda (played by Jessica Maier) leaves him at the altar.
In the aftermath, Hart melts like a handful of Reese's Pieces in a July sun. Musically and mentally he melts down trying to make everyone's weddings as miserable as his own as he spews a volcano of angst and then venom in the song, "Casualty of Love."
When Julia (played by Michele Goodson-Burnett), a waitress at a wedding literally pulls Robbie out of his funk (he had been thrown into a dumpster), he falls in love. However, there's a small problem as Julia is set to marry a young, Wall Street, womanizing fat-cat named Glen, (played by Michael Sidoti). And Robbie has the hot-to-trot Holly (played by Stambaugh, who also choreographs the show) after him.
To win Julia, Robbie travels to Vegas and with the help of a slew of impersonators (from Mr. T to Tina Turner - one of four roles played by Elijah Boyles), crashes Glen and Julia's wedding at the Little White House Chapel and tries to win the heart of the women he loves.
And, of course, all of the aforementioned drama and tangled love is set to original '80s-inspired music written by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin. Hardiman said the songs really push the story forward, and captures the flavor of the '80s without becoming a parody.
Only two of the songs, "Somebody Kill Me," and "Grow Old With You," both written by Adam Sandler and Tim Herlihy, were featured in both the musical and the film, which was packed with a back-ground soundtrack of '80s hits from bands like The Smiths, the Cure, Huey Lewis, David Bowie and The Thompson Twins.
"There is something about the music of the '80s," Hardiman said. "It is just so immediate and it's focused on the melody and the counter melody, and that music resonates with me. It doesn't take itself too seriously. It's really fun music, and this show is all about the music and about rock 'n' roll. You feel it. The band is on stage and you don't hear the music coming from somewhere else and it really steps it up a notch." Goodon-Burnett, a stage veteran who's worked professionally in New York and Austin, Texas, before moving back to the Tri-State about a year ago to teach, said the idea of doing such a fun musical was too tempting to pass up.
Especially since she had first starred with Hardiman back in 1999 when H.O.T. did Guys and Dolls.
Hardiman, who last starred with H.O.T. during the record-setting summer production of Beauty and The Beast in 2005, said it's already been wonderful to reconnect with the H.O.T. family.
"Yeah, I feel like home," Hardiman said. "The first time we moved to the amphitheater for rehearsals and as soon as I walked down that path, it was like 'whoa it feels like home.' It feels like summer camp for me. I grew up back in the 1980s going to 4-H camp when I was in high school and it has that same kind of feeling. I mean I see all of these people throughout the year, but not in that context. This is like jumping in the Delorean and going back in time."