Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Leads carry the flavor of ‘The Wedding Singer’ in Kaukauna

Critic At Large

Kaukauna Community Players

Cast of Kaukauna Community Players production of “The Wedding Singer: The Musical Comedy.” (Troupe photo)

KAUKAUNA, Wis. (WFRV)

The ring fits.

That’s one takeaway from the Kaukauna Community Players production of the sometimes gamy “The Wedding Singer: The Musical Comedy.”

Trent Hoffman fits in the title role. Like: Yes, that’s the way you do it. He’s got the look, voice and manner of a knight of comically woeful countenance – a guy who deals in love and marriage who is jilted at the altar.

Other leads deliver, too.

The story: After getting dumped, wedding singer Robbie Hart (Hoffman) overlooks the obvious as he stumbles along with his band mates, Sammy and George. Robbie has met a friendly waitress, Julia, who is searching for the same thing as Robbie and thinks she has found it with money-minded boyfriend, Glen. Robbie’s grandma is around for advice and earthy laughs.

One performance remains today, June 28, in Bernie Hupperts Center for the Performing Arts in Kaukauna High School.

It is an opportunity to see a show that hasn’t been done much in this region. Not many community troupes are keen on PG-13/borderline R material. There’s that gaminess, starting with the proverbial gross, big-mouth drunk uncle at a wedding reception and including a hormonal dance. But the music has flair, the story is interesting and the touches with 1985 as nostalgia are fun.

While there are so-so elements in performance by the mixed-age, mixed-experience cast in this production, the singing by the leads is a strength.

Sweet duets are sung by Hoffman and Molly Schlaak as Julia. Schlaak adds yearning and warm qualities in her characterization and solos.

Robbie’s buddies – wannabe hard rockers but stuck playing weddings – spice the story. David Been plays Sammy, who has an outrageous hairdo of the time and an ex-girlfriend, Holly, who grouses about his selfish way. Nick Lamers plays George, a soul so sensitive – an opposite for a wannabe headbanger – that he pours heart into a solo at a bar mitzvah.

As Julia’s friend and Sammy’s ex, Toni Yankowski is peppery, notably in a fiery solo in “Right in Front of Your Eyes.”

As Julia’s boyfriend, Amos Huse brings a smarmy way to his character and the colorful song “All About the Green.”

As Robbie’s grandmother, Rosie, Claudia Weaver deadpans stuff that Robbie doesn’t want to hear, mostly that sex wasn’t just invented yesterday and she wasn’t a one-petal blossom.

Greg Franzen keeps popping up in supporting roles, first getting attention as the dreadful uncle with the unfiltered mouth at the opening wedding reception.

Director Eric Schommer and the leads keep the production balanced as the story progresses. Supporting players try their best in tricky numbers and roles.

The pit musicians hit a stride with the score’s often-catchy rhythms. Pit players are especially good at matching what Robbie, Sammy and George seem to be playing on stage.

Along with the dicey joking around, “The Wedding Singer” has clever, teasing humor about the ’80s – like looking at a photo album and laughing at clothing and hair styles. One goodie is about when somebody at Coca-Cola thought it was a smart idea to change the formula. Duh.

Also, it is delicious seeing – as administer of wedding vows at a Las Vegas chapel – an impressionist as President Ronald Reagan along with his first lady, Nancy Reagan, portrayed with gentility by the troupe’s “first couple,” Scott Felten and Linda Felten. That’s something of an inside joke that fits, too.

***

Creative: Book – Chad Beguelin, Tim Herlihy; music – Matthew Sklar; lyrics – Chad Beguelin; director – Eric Schommer; choreographer – Brandi Hietpas; stage manager – Jacqui Lange; scenic designer – Eric Schommer; set builder – Brad Leonhardt; lighting designer – TJ Harikkala; costume manager – Carol Mucha; props – Jacqui Lange

Cast:

Robbie Hart – Trent Hoffman

Sammy – David Been

George – Nick Lamers

Julia Sullivan – Molly Schlaak (June 21, Brittney Baldwin)

Holly – Toni Yankowski (June 21, Brooke Mentzel)

Linda – Brooke Mentzel (June 21, Kylie Boesch)

Glen Guglia – Amos Huse

Rosie – Claudia Weaver

Angie – Linda Felten

Priest – Greg Franzen

Mookie (“Pop!”) – Tanner Nerison

Crystal (“Pop!”) – Bailey Bidwell

Donnie – Calvin Bukovitz

Tiffany – Brandie Hietpas

1st Waiter – Jack Miron

2nd Waiter – Greg Franzen

Shane McDonough – Greg Franzen

Donatella McDonough – Tara Nerison

Bad Hair Cut Guy – Jack Miron

Sideburns Lady – Nora Bielmer

Loser Guy – Calvin Bukovitz

Twinkie Lady – Brooke Mentzel (understudy, Kylie Boesch)

Table 9 – Kacie Franzen, Anna Franzen, Bailey Bidwell

McDonough Maid of Honor – Brandie Hietpas

Jarred Shapiro – Tanner Nerison

Store Clerk – Kathy Breitzman

Mookie (“Not That Kind of Thing”) – Calvin Bukovitz

Crystal (“Not That Kind of Thing”) – Kylie Boesch

Waitress (“Saturday Night in the City”) – Kylie Boesch

Glen’s Secretary – Bailey Bidwell

Junior Secretary – Kylie Boesch

Bum – Greg Franzen

Strippers – Kylie Boesch, Brooke Mentzel

Arnold (“Move That Thang”) – Greg Franzen

Agent – Kylie Boesch

Billy Idol Impersonator – Calvin Bukovitz

Elvis Impersonator – Greg Franzen

Ronald Reagan Impersonator – Scott Felten

Nancy Reagan Impersonator – Linda Felten

Tina Turner Impersonator – Chelsea Poppleton

Cyndi Lauper Impersonator – Tara Nerison

Imelda Marcos – Kylie Boesch

Orchestra: conductor – Jacob Martin; bass – Alec Balge; acoustic guitar, electric guitar – Skylar Glaser; alto sax, clarinet, flute – Karen Hanson; baritone saxophone, English horn, flute, oboe, tenor saxophone – Haley Fink; trumpet, flugelhorn – Tori Vandenberg; percussion – Zach Eggert; drums – Dan Mader; keyboard – John Tengowski

Running time: Two hours, 25 minutes

Remaining performance: 7 p.m. June 28

Info: kaukaunacommunityplayers.org

***

Musical numbers

Act I

“It’s Your Wedding Day” – Robbie, Sammy, George, Ensemble

“Someday” – Julia, Women

“Awesome” – Robbie, Julia

“Someday” (Robbie’s Reprise) – Robbie

“A Note from Linda” – Linda

“It’s Your Wedding Day” (Reprise 1) – Robbie

“Pop!” – Holly, Angie, Julia, Ensemble

“Somebody Kill Me” – Robbie

“A Note from Grandma” – Rosie

“Pre-Casualty-Wedding Day – Robbie, Ensemble

“Casualty of Love” – Robbie, Mutants, Ensemble

“Come Out of the Dumpster” – Julia, Robbie

“Today You Are a Man” – Robbie, Sammy, George

“George’s Prayer” – George

“Not That Kind of Thing” – Clerk, Robbie, Julia, Mookie, Crystal, Ensemble

“Saturday Night in the City” – Holly, Julia, Glen, George, Robbie, Sammy, Ensemble

Act II

“All About the Green” – Glen, Robbie, Ensemble

“Someday” (Julia’s Reprise) – Julia

“Right in Front of Your Eyes” – Holly, Sammy

“All About the Green” (Reprise) – Robbie, Bum, Ricky

“Single” – Sammy, George, Ricky, Bum, Robbie, Male Ensemble

“If I Told You” – Robbie, Julia

“Let Me Come Home” – Linda

“Not That Kind of Thing”/“If I Told You” (Reprise) –Robbie, Julia, Rosie

“Move That Thang” – Rosie, George

“Grow Old with You” – Robbie, Julia

“Finale” – Full Ensemble

***

THE VENUE (2017): The 806-seat Bernie Hupperts Center for the Performing Arts is located in Kaukauna High School, which was built in 1999. The theater includes a 50-foot fly loft, an orchestra pit and a spacious stage footprint. The pit is faced with a rose taupe concrete block. Seats consist of black plastic backs, wooden arms and red seat fabric with a diamond pattern in navy blue with light flecks at “first” and “third” base. The sloped floor is gray concrete, with the aisle carpeting of a wavy pattern of browns. The auditorium’s traditional burgundy color scheme is complemented with such design elements as natural oak woodwork and a stained concrete proscenium frame. Acoustic clouds are suspended rectangular wood panels with the overall look reminiscent of a large checkers/chess board. The “lobby” is a spacious public commons that also serves the adjacent gymnasium. THE PERSON: Bernie Hupperts was a longtime arts instructor at Kaukauna High who was instrumental in launching the Kaukauna Community Players in 1982. He is retired and remains active in the Eagle River area.

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