Sunday, April 30, 2006

Critics Not Completely Engaged by The Wedding Singer

Critics Not Completely Engaged by The Wedding Singer

I can see it now – ads proclaiming The Wedding Singer as the feel-good Broadway musical of the year, especially with such critical quotes as “…imagine Jersey Boys being married to Hairspray," (Clive Barnes, New York Post), “…the show that opened last night at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre is a good-natured, harmless, high-energy knockoff of the 1998 Adam Sandler-Drew Barrymore romantic comedy about nuptial rituals of 1985…Chad Beguelin's lyrics find cleverness in surprising places,” (Linda Winer, Newsday), “…Singer has more heart and a better sense of humor about itself than some of its similarly wacky, winking peers,” (Elysa Gardner, USA Today), “One of the show's greatest assets is Rob Ashford's inventive, comic choreography,” (Howard Kissel, New York Daily News), and “…the show has at least a flutter of a hedonist's pulse. And …the cast members exude earnestness and good nature,” (Ben Brantley, The New York Times). You’d be forgiven for thinking that The Wedding Singer was a critical smash. You’d be wrong. Truth be told, the reviews showed that the critics were less than completely engaged by this musical.

When it gets right down to it, it seems as though a few critics have truly bad memories of the 1980s. Poor Brantley, for example, must have had an awful time, as he states, “How quickly our dreary yesterdays become bright, cute and endlessly repackageable.” Yikes! Was it really that bad, Ben? Or have you succumbed to the revisionist notion that the 80s were only about corruption and greed – which to its credit The Wedding Singer did not simply gloss over. Yet, apparently the musical based on the Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore movie still reminded theatre-goers that this was the decade that girls (and boys) just wanted to have fun.

For me, the 80s were the time when I came of age. It was a much more innocent time and -- not surprisingly -- is an era that I enjoyed, big hair and all. The critics would do well to remember that every generation has a decade gone by for which they'll eagerly embrace nostalgia offered up. In The Wedding Singer, it appears my generation is being served exactly that: a musical where the cast enthusiastically encourages the audience to lighten up. As even Clive Barnes notes about the cast, “all seem to be having fun. As did, it's only fair to note, most of the audience.”

Despite the reviews, I’m looking forward to having fun, too, when I take in this show one week from today.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.

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