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Review: Edinburgh Footlight’s The Wedding Singer

Rating: 4 out of 5.

As the audience settles into the old-fashioned wooden benches of the Rose Theatre, a loudspeaker announcement warns of the “slightly ridiculous number of weddings” that the audience is about to experience.

The Wedding Singer is a musical produced by The Edinburgh University Footlights based on the 1998 romantic comedy that premiered on Broadway in 2006. It follows Robbie, a moderately successful wedding singer who lives in the basement of his grandmother in the mid-80s. After Robbie is jilted at the altar by his fiancée, Linda, he falls for the waitress, Julia. She, in turn, is engaged to Glen Guglia, a Wall Street banker. What follows is a tale about heartbreak, singlehood and the slow realisation of who the “right one” is.

The show starts off slightly unpolished but quickly gains a foothold. At first, the stage design seems uninspired but it becomes effective with skilful lighting. For instance, the dark, simplistic set makes the colourful 80s windbreakers and neon legwarmers stand out all the more.

Three cast members dressed in pink dresses with wedding veils and flower bouquets, pose in from of a pink sparkling backdrop
Image Courtesy of The Edinburgh University Footlights

The first few songs, performed in a simple front-of-stage style, does not draw the audience into the story. This initial feeling, however, is improved throughout. The show begins to sparkle as lead characters Robbie and Julia, masterfully portrayed by Chris Kane and Phoebe Simpson, perform the song “Awesome” in amicable familiarity. From then on, the arc is maintained throughout. 

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Jokes interspersed in the show keep the smile on the audience’s lips. Kane’s acting is impressive and captivating – fully portraying the endearing awkwardness and misery of a broken-hearted wedding singer. After ruining the first wedding he has performed at since being dumped – “I bit the best man, the bride had to be sedated” – Robbie hides in a bin from police and reporters. In the impish and melancholic song “Come out of the dumpster”, Julia urges Robbie to pull himself together. This is delivered by Kane and Simpson in an ironic and playful manner.

Until “Casualty of love”, the performance lacks energy. Thereafter, however, the choreography – and thus the staging – gains in power and tempo. What can be achieved with good direction is proven in “All about the green”. Suddenly the audience finds themselves on bustling Wall Street amidst a flurry of suits, despite the spartan stage set. Although this is a musical full of flippant jokes, there is no shortage of deeper, more emotional scenes. When Julia (Simpson) collapses over the ridiculousness of her future name as ‘wife’, one feels genuine sympathy. The duets of Julia and Robbie are downright touching, as Simpson’s and Kane’s beautiful, warm voices overlay in an electrifying fusion that gives goosebumps. 

The contrast between Julia’s demure denim skirt and the slinky costumes of Linda and Holly – whose characters deserved more than to be predominantly seductive – is perhaps too flat. Yet, this does not detract from the thoroughly enjoyable, light, and happy effect of the musical. 

Three cast members pose amongst pink sparkling streamers
Image Courtesy of The Edinburgh University Footlights.

Most characters are given space to develop, and each gets their time to shine. Particularly entertaining are the scenes devoted to male characters only. Seeing them let loose on the stage and giving it their all is truly refreshing. A beautiful moment is when Robbie appears in the audience with his guitar and sings one of the most moving songs of the musical yet, “Grow old with you”.

The production is compelling with its warmth, humour, and charm, which moves the audience to a standing ovation. The Wedding Singer promises an escapist evening that conjures a silly smile on your face and leaves you humming the main tune, “It’s your wedding day” for hours after. 

The musical runs from the 16th to the 19th of February 2022 at the Rose Theatre.

Image Courtesy of The Edinburgh University Footlights, promotional media

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