Is there a greater power in the world than love? And is there a more significant way to celebrate love than a wedding? Love instills the feeling within us that love is, as Elizabeth Forward's lead actors David Barr and Lisa Lujetic beautifully harmonized, "Awesome."
It gives us the feeling that the man or woman we love will be someone who we can see ourselves growing old with. And so when we lose that feeling of love, it leaves us feeling down in the dumpster, and eagerly searching to cure the lovesickness in the embrace of the person we love.
Such is the driving force of "The Wedding Singer," a musical adaptation of the 1998 film of the same name. The musical follows the trials of wedding singer Robbie Hart as he is stood up at his wedding by his fiancee Linda and finds himself falling in love with a waitress at the reception hall in which he works named Julia, who is facing romantic problems of her own. Having seen the film but never having heard of the musical adaptation, I went to Elizabeth Forward High School on March 31 unsure of what to expect from their rendition.
The lights came on and the band began playing a fun and energetic beat (a tone that continued throughout the show). Immediately the small auditorium was transformed into a lively wedding reception. The cast was outfitted elegantly in dresses and tuxedoes. Playing host were Robbie and his fun loving band of Sammy and the exotic George (played by David Barr, James Benedek and Gavin Carnahan, respectively).
In a show which you would think would be dominated by the singing, it was at times outshined by the choreography. It was truly incredible and this became quickly evident in the opening number, "It's Your Wedding Day." The peak of this dance routine was performed by Tristan Brock and Lindsey Howard who played Mr. and Mrs. Fonda and danced more like trained ballroom dancers than a newly married couple.
There truly was no single dominating star as each member of the cast found a way to shine through solo performances and collaborations. David Barr channeled the optimism of love in "Awesome" and the despair of losing that with his emotional rendition of "Somebody Kill Me." He also paired with Lisa Lujetic, who played Julia, to harmonize beautifully and bring the love of Robbie and Julia to life in "Grow Old With You." Lisa certainly held her own in her solo songs, however, and portrayed the longing and sweet Julia specifically in "Someday."
Although Lisa and David were the stars of the show, many of the evening's most enjoyable moments came from the supporting cast. Bailey McCune commanded the stage as Glen, Julia's rich and arrogant fiancee, and proved that he had quite a voice of his own in "All About the Green." Sammy and George provided the musical with the most comic relief, often taking over for Robbie when his set was up.
Sammy also shared a love story of his own with Julia's cousin Holly, played by Mattie Winowitch, who herself wowed the audience through her dancing and singing. Shelby Ruschak brought the shallow Linda to life and temporarily stole the spotlight with her pleading "Let Me Come Home" to a drunken Robbie. However, out of all the supporting cast, certainly the most enjoyable performance came from Kayla Bilak's portrayal of Robbie's promiscuous Granny, singing and getting down in her song "Move That Thang."
Much credit also must be given to the band and to the show director Mr. Justin Turpin. After all, any musical requires the management of a director and this production was certainly in good hands. The live band remained in tune and in synch with the actors and maintained the energy of the opening number throughout. The stage crew must also be given a fair amount of credit. The changing of scenery was no small task and they executed it with precision and quickness. The lighting also added to the spectacle of the stage in a lively way.
I was lucky enough to catch the show at its closing performance and there was a wonderful homage to the seniors who were performing on the Elizabeth Forward stage for the final time. Much of the cast were seniors and they will certainly have an amazing final show to look back on. As for those who still have a few years left, I am anxious to see how Elizabeth Forward will top a show as incredible as "The Wedding Singer."
The Kelly Critics is a joint program of the Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh CLO's Gene Kelly Awards for Excellence in High School Musicals, in which students at Kelly schools review musicals at other Kelly schools. Reviews are edited by senior theater critic Christopher Rawson (email@example.com), a long-time Kelly Awards judge.