- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The 1980s were years of colorful characters and clothing, mile-long mullets and techno music. Welcome to the Port Tobacco Players’ production of “The Wedding Singer,” which runs March 21 through April 6.
“We knew we wanted to do something a little more fun, a little more upbeat,” said director Brooke L. Howells-Weiser, who last directed “The Who’s Tommy” last summer. “This was definitely not easy, but we wanted something to make us laugh at the end of the day.”
The play, based on the Adam Sandler movie of the same name, is produced by Ann Marie Watson.
“It’s pure fun from start to finish,” said Amy Wathen Cooksey, who plays Angie, the mother of Hart’s eventual love interest. “I’m reliving my teenage years.”
Things are looking up for wedding singer Robbie Hart (Erich Engel). He and his Simply Wed bandmates — leg warmer-wearing George (Quentin Nash Sagers) and mullet-haired Sammy (Michael J. Margelos) — are a hit at every New Jersey gig, and Robbie’s marrying girlfriend Linda (Kimberly Cease) the next day.
“When I auditioned I really didn’t know what to expect,” said Engel, a Leonardtown resident who is pursuing a master’s in secondary English. “I was pulled aside, and they said, “Hey, no pressure or anything, but we’d like you to take a swing at Robbie.’”
But not everything is coming up (guns and) roses for Robbie. He lives in his grandmother’s basement. His song to his fiancee — “You make me feel, like a trapper clubbing a seal …” — needs work, and his wedding gift from his grandmother is a vibrating bed from “the Motel 6 in Hackensack.”
Things go from bad to worse when Robbie is stood up at his own wedding in a Dear (Elton) John letter cleverly delivered by Linda, who closes with, “We need some space … dot, dot, dot … smiley-face.”
He goes back to (men at) work, but it’s clearly too soon. Robbie insults the bride and groom and sings about the “losers at table 9,” a motley crue of misfits including a man who took his mother to the prom and a woman with sideburns. The disastrous evening ends with kind-hearted waitress Julia Sullivan (Becky Kuhn) helping him out of a trash receptacle.
“Singing things like, ‘Come Out of the Dumpster’ is hard to keep things as serious as they need to be ...,” said Kuhn, a Mechanicsville resident and music teacher at Piccowaxen Middle School in Newburg.
Julia is dating Glen Guglia (Patrick Pruitt), a rich, workaholic, skirt-chasing cad who thinks nothing of blowing off their anniversary for courtside tickets. He sees his upcoming proposal to Julia as just another deal. Glen might be wealthy, but he’s not hitting financial home runs every at-bat. He scoffs at a new chain called Starbucks, yet tells his aide to buy everything he can on Coke Zero.
Sammy is aggressively pursuing former flame Holly (Tara Waters), who repeatedly turns him down. Sammy cautions that, “Like the McRib, I’m only here for a limited time.”
There’s a song on how a man should hold a woman’s purse and a debate exchange about how a first kiss should be executed. And Sagers has a memorable scene at a bar mitzvah.
“It’s fun to be totally in the groove, and then you end with throwing glitter,” Sagers said. “How can it get any better?”
The play takes place in 1985, and icons of the era are everywhere, including Glen speaking on his breadbox-sized cellphone from a DeLorean.
“The first [phone] we had was like, ‘No, no, it’s too small,’” Cooksey said. “[And then actor] Taylor [Scott Hines] was talking on his Bluetooth, and I’m like, ‘Taylor, honey, there was no Bluetooth [then].’” It’s … educational how much they were out of touch.”
“I have some friends who can build some crazy stuff,” Howells-Weiser said of the car.
The 32-year-old Sagers, who is a special education instructional assistant at Gale-Bailey Elementary School in Marbury, also served as costume designer. He said when he Googled “1985 fashion” he noticed there was a lot of “turquoise, purple, pink, yellow and that really bright green.”
Sagers came up with 157 costumes for the cast of 24. Some actors wear as many as 11 outfits while the fewest is “Grandma Rosie (Amy Statz Dolan) who wears three, no four. I keep forgetting about her Jazzercise costume.”
The two-hour play has 28 musical numbers.
“The creative process for the dances was to put on some ’80s music and just jam out,” said Howells-Weiser, who was born in 1980. “Honestly, we just kind of relaxed and let us kind of take it where it went, and we had a blast.”
“When you listen to the words during first read-through it was cute, but the more you read them [the more] they stay in your head,” Cooksey said of the catchy lyrics. “At two in the morning I’ll wake up singing Linda’s letter [to Robbie].”
Auditions were held close to Thanksgiving, and rehearsal began in December.
“We were looking for something fun and a little different to do, especially with this winter we’ve had,” Howells-Weiser said. “It’s a bit of a bright spot.”