Curve has made no secret of its desire to become the regional home of the musical. And although it’s not new and it’s not British, The Wedding Singer gets a high-octane send-off from the venue on an eight-month tour of the UK with this bright and breezy new production.
The stage musical is based on a 1998 Adam Sandler movie vehicle that was amusing without ever reaching the dizzy heights of cult or classic status. It’s always something of a hostage to fortune branding a show 'hilarious', as the producers have chosen to do with this production. And the truth is that the slight-as-a-wedding-veil story never climbs above the moderately entertaining, while including some good one-liners and a nice vein of knowing '80s references.
What it has in its favour is a score of hummable, poppy tunes by composer Matthew Sklar and lyricist Chad Beguelin, delivered by a vibrant, committed cast of talented performers. In the pit, musical director George Dyer commands a band that are as tight as a pair of skin-tight trousers, even if the sound balance is all over the shop, swamping far too much of the vocals for far too much of the time.
Director-choreographer Nick Winston strikes a sensible note from the off, centre-staging his star performer Jon Robyns and keeping him pretty much there throughout. As Robbie, the titular wedding singer with a roller coaster love life, Robyns shows off his pedigree as a classy triple threat, singing, dancing and acting with consistent panache and is never less than totally watchable.
Playing off him as the nominal villain of the piece, one-time X Factor runner-up Ray Quinn more than holds his own, almost stealing the show with his big second-act paean to the dollar, "All About the Green". Up against this pair, Cassie Compton and Roxanne Pallett face an uphill battle but do a fine job as the will-she-won’t-she girl next door and her trashy but lovable friend.
Ruth Madoc shakes off any memories of Hi-de-Hi‘s Gladys Pugh with a wonderful turn as Robbie’s grandmother, and there’s terrific support from Ashley Emerson and Samuel Holmes as his bandmates. Holmes in particular transforms what could be a one-joke sideshow into a genuinely entertaining three-dimensional character, while the male misery song "Single" offers another standout moment as the boys drown their sorrows in a bar, giving Winston’s choreographic calibre a chance to shine through.
A warm reception on opening night bodes well for the road ahead, and I have no doubt the show will get slicker as everyone settles into their roles. As fun as it is at the moment, I suspect there’s more to be mined from this impressive cast.
The Wedding Singer runs at Curve, Leicester until 18 February, and then tours the UK.