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People who seek out live theater usually fall into one of two categories.
The first group goes to be challenged by a playwright, who holds a mirror up to society in order to shed light on an injustice or on mankind’s foibles. Group two wants to have a few laughs and grab a couple of beers at intermission.
If you’re in the latter bunch, have I got a show for you: “The Wedding Singer” now playing at the Secret Theatre, 44-02 23rd St., Long Island City, through this weekend.
“The Wedding Singer” has a few genuine laughs, but for the most part it feels like you’re viewing a live version of a silly 1980s sitcom — “Perfect Strangers” or “My Two Dads” pop to mind.
OK, full disclosure time. When it comes to Adam Sandler, I’d rather watch him in “Punch Drunk Love,” then, well, pretty much anything else he’s made.
And this production sticks faithfully to the 1998 Sandler-Drew Barrymore film about a wedding singer in 1980s New Jersey, who gets dumped at the altar, makes chimpmunk noises to express sadness and spirals into a deep depression.
I know how he feels.
Watching the show, I couldn’t help but think the problem with “The Wedding Singer” isn’t the material apparently written for Sandler’s target audience of 15-year-old boys, but rather that a group of extremely talented and energetic performers are stuck in Ridgewood, N.J. circa 1985 making rapping granny and gay jokes.
When he’s not trying to impersonate Sandler, Barry DeBois in the role of Robbie, the wedding singer, comes across as likeable, smart and funny. Unlike Broadway houses, actors here are not miked, which hinders DeBois a couple of time as his singing voice tends to get lost among his castmates and even the five-piece band playing offstage.
Michael Louis Bernardi does a terrific job in the role of Sammy, the clueless meathead with a Flock of Seagulls hairdo. And John Wascavage as obviously gay bandmate George, who is dressed to match ’80s music icon Boy George, has a genuinely funny moment with his solo “George’s Prayer.” The song, performed at a bar mitzvah after Robbie’s breakdown at a wedding reception forces the band to change tactics, has the audience howling as Wascavage sings in Hebrew to the tune of Spandau Ballet’s “This Much is True.”
But this show really belongs to the women.
Both Allison Wilkes as Julia, the waitress Robbie falls in love with on the rebound, and Kristin Piacentile, who plays Julia’s cousin Holly, bring strong singing voices and terrific comedic timing to the female lead and second banana role.
However, it’s Natalie DePuy in the small role of Linda, the woman who leaves Robbie on their wedding day, who nearly steals the show in Act I. Dressed as a sluttier Pat Benatar from the “Love is a Battlefield” video, DePuy sings her Dear John note, “A Note From Linda,” with the perfect ’80s rocker chick attitude and mannerisms. By the time she’s fluttering her right hand after shoving her left index finger into her ear — in order to hit the high notes — you’ll wonder why the show isn’t called “The Wedding Singer’s Ex-fiancée.”
If You Go
The Wedding Singer
Where: Secret Theatre, 44-02 23rd St., LIC
When: Through Saturday, Aug. 24
Contact: (718) 392-0722
©2013 Community Newspaper Group
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