St Hilda’s production of The Wedding Singer is a boisterous and enthusiastic show that doesn’t take itself too seriously. An easy eighties rom-com, this is a somewhat predictable musical that closely follows genre conventions, but is no less satisfying for it.
Mackenzie Downie was charming as Julia, giving an endearing quality to the female lead’s girl-next-door simplicity. She conveyed Julia’s romantic indecision both convincingly and sympathetically. While Downie’s voice was impressive, it was Miriam Brownstein as Holly whose solo numbers stole the show. Claudia Wortmann’s performance as Linda was also a crowd favourite. While Jacob Kaye was certainly sweet in the lead role of Robbie, unfortunately he didn’t have the strength for the vocal aspects of the role. He was a compelling character to follow, but not ideally suited to musical theatre.
The bare set design was effective, but overwhelmed by the nearly ever-present chorus. Though the polyester rainbow of costumes proved that nostalgia shows like this are what op-shops are made for, it also added to the sense of chaos that took over whenever the ensemble came on stage. The whole cast were enthusiastic performers, but many in the chorus struggled to keep up with the choreography and simply distracted from the leads. While they helped create the party atmosphere central to several scenes, their number could easily have been cut in half to prevent the crowding and confusion that sometimes took over.
The live band performed well and their music was a welcome addition to scene changes, which had a tendency to be inexplicably long despite the minimal set. However, the visibility of the conductor became distracting in key moments, when his gesturing drew the audience’s eye away from the actors.
The show was also plagued throughout by microphone troubles that ranged from mildly distracting (Josh Eaton’s mic falling off mid-solo) to physically painful (a frankly uncomfortable amount of feedback). While this is a common problem in student theatre, it’s a large one for a big band musical.
Though it lacked finesse, this show is exactly as colourful, wild and romantic as audiences could hope for. While it’s a shame that the restraint shown in the set design wasn’t echoed in other aspects of the production, it was clear cast and audience were largely enjoying themselves, and that’s kind of the point.
St Hilda’s College Theatre Group’s production of The Wedding Singer played in the Union Theatre, Union House, the University of Melbourne, from 11-12 September.