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The Wedding Singer - Rackheath Players (16.02.23)

Being a big fan of the 90s Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore rom-com, not least of all for the music which plays a big part in the movie, I was very keen to see The Wedding Singer on the stage. The musical has been around since the mid-2000s, so quite how it has passed me by until now, I’m not sure, but the production I saw from Rackheath Players was just as charming as I remember the movie being.

The show suffered an unfortunate start, particularly for Elliot King who was playing Robbie Hart, when his mic failed in the opening number. That was the first of a number of issues with the sound, which meant I struggled to hear Elliot’s voice for most of the show. Thankfully I was able to hear him for his beautiful duet with Julia (Dearbhla Hilton) in If I Told You.

Dearbhla’s mic seemed to suffer some similar issues, but fortunately she was able to belt some of her numbers and ensure her gorgeous voice was heard. As Julia, Dearbhla perfectly encapsulated the beguiling, girl-next-door energy that Drew Barrymore brought to the character.

Robbie’s bandmates, Sammy and George, were played with great confidence by the young duo of Owen Smith and Kodi Gooch, both of whom at various points displayed superb comic timing, great vocals, and dance ability.

When it comes to vocals and dance ability though, Georgia Chapman absolutely shone as Julia’s best friend, Holly. Georgia provided the stand-out moment with her exceptional vocals and beautiful solo dance routine in Right in Front of Your Eyes.

Elsewhere, there was some brilliant supporting performances from the likes of Alex Grantham as Julia’s fiancé Glen, and Jennifer Arthurton as that skanky whore, Linda. Rackheath Players is also blessed to have strength in depth, with experienced performers such as Angela Smith, Ruth Church, Julie Benfield, and Aaron Burgess to name but a few, who were able to occupy a number of different roles with ease.

What struck me most about the company was how many talented young people Rackheath has at its disposal. It meant, with the skill and enthusiasm displayed particularly by the younger contingent of the ensemble, they were able to perform some slightly more complex choreography than you tend to see from companies of a similar ilk, which really lifted the show. It also highlights the importance of encouraging the next generation of talent, and Rackheath Players should be really proud of their endeavours with their youth theatre, as it’s invaluable for them in order to ably pull off shows such as this.

Seeing a production on opening night, there’s always a danger you won’t get quite as polished a performance as you’d hope for. This is particularly true for amateur theatre, where companies often don’t have the time or budgets to rehearse with the full technical set-up until perhaps a couple of days before the show opens. So, yes, there were some technical hitches on opening night, but that shouldn’t detract from what was a really accomplished performance by the cast, and I’m sure audiences for the remaining performances can anticipate a much smoother run of this absolute joy of a show.


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