Fighting Chance Productions
The Wedding Singer
by Matthew Sklar & Chad Beguelin

Dates and Venue 27 April - 22 May 2010 | Jericho Arts Centre, Vancouver

Reviewer Ed Farolan

This kind of entertainment is indeed what we need to celebrate our fickled Spring here in Vancouver, especially these days when the weather is still in the dumps. Something like this--exuberant, happy-- to get us out of the slump. And Ryan Mooney has successfully entertained us again, this time, with a mega-cast of almost 30 singers and dancers!

Gone are those days when, to be an actor, all you had to do is emote. These days, you have to sing, dance and act. Naturally, acting is the easy part, and normally, singers and dancers don't know how to act. Such was the case in this musical. But that's how musicals are: who cares about spoken dialogues (which were a bit rusty during opening night), but the dancing and singing were simply fabulous.

Mooney, who was running around giving programs that had run out, was almost a nervous wreck before the show started. When I talked to him right before the show, he appeared uneasy and I suppose it was because there were still a few glitches in the play which hadn't been fixed after two preview performances. In fact, he admitted he was nervous when he greeted the audience.

With community theatre, you can't afford to have too many previews, unlike the Arts Club or The Playhouse who can afford to polish a play for practically a week before opening. But Fighting Chance Productions, a name that brings to mind the die hard motto of Avis Car Rentals, did in fact successfully deliver, and the audience, even if they were mostly friends and family, whistled and laughed, and basically, had a good time.

Mooney has made his way from off-Broadway musicals, to the bigtime with those elaborate sets and costumes, and a cast numbering in the 20s. Wow! I'd go crazy myself getting this huge cast dancing and singing in rhythm--accolades to Music Director Christopher King and Choreographer Anne Hassard for a battle fought and won.

The sets were interestingly functional, with colourful flats executed with precision from one scene to the next. The lighting effects were also well executed and well-timed. Kudos to Lightng/Set Designer Graham Ockley. Audio, however, couldn't hit the mark a lot of times, as all audio problems always tend to go off in timing. In other words, it's difficult to get the volume up when a singer starts his song or modulate the volume if a singer doesn't sing loud enough.

Let's talk about the cast. The main stars of this musical delivered quite effectively. Andrew Halliwell (Robbie Hart) is a Hugh Grant look-alike, and I could see he put a lot of work preparing for his part. Lexy Campbell (Julia Sullivan) reminds me of a young Nelly Furtado, and she is perfectly cast for the role of a simple waitress who just likes to live the simple life.

The other leads were more than just funny. They were hilarious! Alex McMorran (Sammy) was ridiculously dressed with a hair-do straight from Star Wars and costumed in those ridiculous outfits that made the 80s a unique period. McMorran should know better as he grew up during those yuppy/punk years. Sean Parsons (George) was obviouslya take-off of Boy George, another icon of the 80s. He got laughs, and I remember his excellent acting as The Lecturer in Reefer Madness.

Cassandra Nantel (Holly) was cast to the T for her role. She was the limelight girl, and in real life, she is constantly after that dream as she is in fact a singer, songwriter, and a model. But she fits that sexy blonde role, and exudes that Marlyn Monroe/Madonna charisma, especially in that one dance when she's dressed in red and totally gives her all. Tyson Coady (Glen Guglia) is typecast perfectly as the materialistic yuppie of the 80s with his gigantic cell phone bulging out of his pants pocket. (Isn't it so Japanese that everything gets more and more miniaturized as time goes by?)

Linda Noble (Rosie) plays the horny and down-to-earth grandma of Robbie. Noble hit those punch lines really well. Jessica Kelly (Linda) is Robbie's ex-girlfriend who doesn't show up for the wedding, but comes back and tries to get together with him again. She gets pretty heavy in the seduction scene, but that's precisely how the part should be played.

The ensemble cast is a phenomenon--those costume and make-up changes must have been a nightmare for the singers/dancers, but they executed those changes close to perfection. Hassard did a tremendous job with the choreography, and you could sense the professionalism that went into the ensemble's singing and dancing. This ensemble, in my opinion, is what makes this musical a hit.

Congrats/Kudos to the cast and production team for an entertaining opening night. You'll surely get even better as you go on to your next shows!

© 2010 Ed Farolan