WW Magic Big Plus For 'Wedding Singer' PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Saturday, 20 July 2013 20:18

In recent years, the trend on Broadway has been to abandon originality for reworking existing stories, most often those of hit movies, especially hit movies to which a musical score can be added.

The Wedding Singer Wagon Wheel Theatre Warsaw INThere have been many of these, popularly referred to as “Jukebox Musicals.” They vary in theatrical strength, most often relying on LOUD as their key ingredient. They also vary in longevity, depending on their level of production.

Director/choreographer Scott Michaels has worked his magic on the current Wagon Wheel Theatre production of the Broadway version of the 1998 Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore comedy “The Wedding Singer.”

The core of this transformation relies on several ingredients: A talented cast, thoroughly engaging leads, amazing choreography and killer vocals which leave your eardrums (almost) in tact. Well, it is set in the ‘80s which I recall was a very loud decade.

The score, well-played as always by conductor/keyboardist Thomas N. Stirling and the eight talented musicians who make up his “pit band” (literally), is definitely not memorable. But, as they say, sometimes the strength is in the doing and Wagon Wheel does it right.

“The Wedding Singer” is the 400th production of Warsaw’s theater-in-the-round which began as a gravel-floored tent and is now one of the most highly respected summer theaters in the country.

On opening night Wednesday, about 900 “guests” came to the wedding and, obviously friends of the bride AND groom, stayed through the quite ridiculous finale, loving every minute of it.

Matt Hill is Robbie Hart, guitarist and lead singer of the band Simply Wed. He is in love with love and with fiancé Linda (Alexandra Howley) who, unfortunately turns out to fit the very unflattering description delivered by his feisty grandmother Rosie (Jennifer Dow at her geriatric best!).

The Wedding Singer Wagon Wheel Theatre Warsaw INHe is rescued from the dumpster of depression by Julia Sullivan (Stephanie Cowan), a waitress at the wedding facility where his band plays. Together, Hill and Cowan make a really adorable and completely sympathetic couple. She has a naturally warm and clear soprano which makes her solos thoroughly enjoyable. His baritone fits beautifully in their several duets and, like Cowan, he can belt or sustain a solo note without rupturing your eardums. His comic timing is excellent and he never overdoes.

As the duo’s definitely-not-the-right-mate-material, Rob Montgomery and Howley are the fiancés you love to hate. He is Glen Guglia, a Wall Street sleaze whose priorities are “All About the Green.” She dumps Robbie when he fails to become a rock star. Both meet their musical just rewards and if Linda’s “Let Me Come Home” sounds like a ballad title, you couldn’t be more wrong!

Robbie’s band mates are his best friend Sammy (Matthew Janisse), who is holding on to the single life in spite of an increasing reconnection to Julia’s best friend Holly (Leigh Ellen Jones), and George (Dereck Seay), a soulful portable keyboard player whose resemblance — vocal and coiffure-wise — to Boy George is unmistakable. His rap with Rosie is a highlight of the second act and, even though fairly unintelligible, is a well-deserved show-stopper.

It’s the ‘80s, so of course the girls are on the hunt for a man to “Pop” (the question), while the boys’ interest is in having their cake and —well, you know. It’s the age-old battle of the sexes and there’s no mistaking the results.

The multi-level set designed by Michael Higgins and Terry Julien and lit above and below by Patrick Chan, allows the action to move to many locations (and gives the WW stage crew a real workout!). Stephen R. Hollenbeck’s return-to-the-‘80s costumes are spot-on and whether at a wedding or a disco, add much to the ambiance of the wild-and-wooly decade.

If the final confrontations are most recognizable to TV fans of that period, they certainly are good for leaving the whole audience laughing. And retrospectively, wasn’t that what it was all about?

”THE WEDDING SINGER” plays through July 27 in the theater at 2517 E. Center Street in Warsaw. For performance times and reservations, call 267-8041 or (800) 823-2618 or visit

Shaking Up Elvis And The Bard of Avon PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Thursday, 18 July 2013 21:37

Take a rollicking farce that is more than 500 years old and inject it with a large amount of music from the late 20th century and what do you have?

All Shook Up  Elkhart Civic Theatre  Bristol INIn the case of the current Elkhart Civic Theatre production of “All Shook Up,” the answer is a highly entertaining evening of familiar melodies and a plot that becomes so hilariously twisted it takes about 2 ½ hours (including intermission) to get everyone straightened out and properly paired up.

What makes this seemingly unlikely combination of Elvis Presley’s best-known songs and the reimagining by playwright Joe DiPietro of one of Shakespeare’s most-produced farces so totally enjoyable is the unbridled enthusiasm of the cast, most of whom are still in their ‘teens.

The opening line of “Twelfth Night” (the work by The Bard of Avon on which the circuitous plot is based) is “If music be the food of love, play on.” In the rousing ECT production it plays on…and on…and on.

If some of the individual voices are a bit less than solo quality, each one makes up for being “pitchy” with frequently endearing energy and enthusiasm. The sharp staging by John J. Shoup, assisted by Leann Reas-Sullan, underscores every comic incidence and makes the most of all the fast-paced happenings.

All Shook Up Elkhart Civic Theatre Bristol INThere is no way to unravel the plot. It is no easier set in “A small you-never-heard-of-it-town somewhere in the Midwest” during the summer of 1955 than it was, set in Illyria on the east coast of the Adriatic Sea in about 1601.

Against Jeffrey Barrack’s stylized drops, the story of “Roustabout” Chad (Tell Williams IV), who literally roars into town on his motorcycle and more than disrupts the status quo, is nothing but fun from beginning to end. As each principle player “falls in love(?)” “One Night With You” is the romantic anthem of choice.

The town is under the thumb of Mayor Matilda (Joy Freude), who has enacted “The Mamie Eisenhower Decency Act” which prohibits “loud music, public necking and tight pants.” In no time, Chad is rousing the residents to rebellion.

In the tradition of true farce, everyone is falling in love but no one is falling for the right person. Among the mis-matched inhabitants are Sylvia, owner of the local café (Wanzetta Arnett); her daughter Lorraine (Dayna Arnette); Jim, a widower and owner/operator of the local garage (Rick All Shook Up  Elkhart Civic Theatre  Bristol INNymeyer); his daughter Natalie, who also serves as chief mechanic (Carly Swendsen); Dennis, town nerd and bad boy wannabee (Matthew Manley); Dean, the mayor’s son avoiding a return to the Stonewall Jackson Military Academy (Andy Braden); Miss Sandra, the town’s new librarian (Ashlea Romano); and Sheriff Earl, silent head of law enforcement (Tony Venable).

These, plus two trios (Brittny Goon, Kristen Abbey and Julie Kavalenko and Jared Yoder, Jacob DeLong and Joshua Garcia) who supply some excellent backup work, do well presenting numbers from The King’s repertoire. An ensemble of 13 and Kids’ Chorus of four deliver a really solid sound thanks to vocal director Sandy Hill.

Suspension of disbelief allows cute and perky Carly to pass as sidekick Ed, even without a dirty face. Watching the repressed inhabitants throw off the inhibiting yoke of Mayor Matilda and learn to “Follow That Dream” results in one laugh after another.

I also guarantee that, whether or not you were ever an Elvis fan, watching the ‘50s-style choreography by Dawn Manger (with John Shoup) set to the excellent eight-piece orchestra directed by percussionist Mark Swendsen will get your toes tapping. It’s definitely unavoidable considering the extensive range of the 24-song score.

It’s a look back and way, way back to a time when “A Little Less Conversation” resulted in steady fires of “Burning Love.”

“ALL SHOOK UP” plays at 8 p.m. today and Saturday and 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in the Bristol Opera House on SR 120 in downtown Bristol. For reservations, call 848-4116 between 1 and 5:30 p.m. weekdays or visit

Storming The Barricades Yet Again PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Monday, 15 July 2013 02:53

There is no doubt that wherever it plays, whether the production is amateur or professional, audiences love “Les Miserables.”

Les Miserables  South Bend (IN) Civic Theatre

The almost-opera, called a "sing-through" musical, is a close second to "The Phantom of the Opera" in Broadway longevity. It has been performed all over the world. The London production has been running continuously since 1985, there have been two anniversary concerts (10th and 25th) and, after an initial Broadway run of 16 years (1987 to 2003), with one revival from 2006 to ’08 and another planned for the spring of 2014, it would seem that there is no generation gap in fans of "Les Miz", who just keep coming and coming back.

One of the first non-professional regional productions opened Friday evening in South Bend Civic Theatre’s Wilson Mainstage Auditorium. The initial run of 13 scheduled performances has been increased to 15 with several already sold out.

Obviously, sight unseen (and sound unheard), everybody wants to see the massive musical created from Victor Hugo’s equally massive novel(s) by composer Claude-Michel Schonberg, lyricist Herbert Kretzmer and authors Schonberg and Alain Boublil.

Les Miserables South Bend (IN) Civic Theatre

Laughs, Chills In The Barn's 'Deathtrap' PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Thursday, 11 July 2013 03:03

Few contemporary authors have been as successful as novelists, playwrights and screenwriters as the late Ira Levin.

Deathtrap  The Barn Theatre  Augusta MIAlthough his comedy “No Time for Sargeants” was an award-winner on stage and screen (and brought fame to Andy Griffith), his genre of choice was mystery thrillers.

One which combined both thrills and laughs — and was a hit on stage and screen — was “Deathtrap,” which opened Tuesday evening at The Barn Theatre in Augusta, Mich.

The play-within-a-play, which opened on Broadway in 1978, still holds the record for being its longest-running comedy thriller. Check out The Barn production and you’ll understand why.

Actually, its not exactly a play-within-a-play, it’s about a playwright with writer’s block and the writing of a murder play that eventually leaps (literally!) off the printed page and into the lives of the playwright, Sidney Bruhl (Robert Newman), his wife Myra (Samantha Rickard) and a former student Clifford Anderson (Patrick Hunter).

Stirring the murderous mix are Helga ten Dorp (Penelope Alex), a psychic renting the cottage next door, and Porter Milgrim (Steven Burright), Bruhl’s lawyer and friend.

To Levin’s credit, if seeing “Deathtrap” for the first time, you will never spot the endgame. I won’t begin to unravel the twisted plotline because even if I could remember all the detailed ins-and-outs (make that dead/not dead), what makes this thriller worth seeing (or seeing again) are the performances, especially those of Newman and Alex, with Hunter a close third.

Deathtrap  The Barn Theatre  Augusta  MI

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