Jan 27 - Feb 26, 2023
at Gateway Playhouse

The Long Island Advance

January 30, 2023 - Linda Leuzzi

Enjoy Yourself; It’s The 80’s With Panache

Who would have thought 1985 Ridgefield, New Jersey in the popular era of big hair, Masters of the Universe, club life, and rock music would offer such endearing nostalgia, but it’s the perfect backdrop for Robbie, a kind wedding singer who wants to get married, write songs, head a successful band with his buddies, and move out of his grandmother’s basement. Julia, (Sarah Ellis, a divinely pitch perfect vocalist who adorably plays the beautiful, kind waitress encouraging him), also wants to get hitched. The story launched a wildly successful Adam Sandler movie and Broadway musical and The Gateway’s The Wedding Singer’s debut in Bellport Friday night was a happily raucous, upbeat, talented ensemble of gorgeous comets who shot their acting and dancing chops out to the audience with joy and abandon. It even had a nail-biting, the show-must-go on, back story. That morning, when lead Douglas Goodheart as Robbie the wedding singer discovered he had Covid, ensemble actor Jose Contreras (understudy for Robbie’s friend Sammy,) was tapped to step into the main spotlight. This tenor with belt, has theater and regional theater credits that happily included The Wedding Singer. Contreras got right into the first scene at the Reception Hall singing “It’s Your Wedding Day” owning the role as Robbie. We were hooked. Please…take this sweet guy home. Both leads have yukky fiancés; Robbie is ditched at the altar by vapid Linda (Kelly MacMillan plays this trashy, ferocious minx to the hilt); Julia is romanced by Glen Guglia (Bill Coyne). Coyne personifies the slick, pompous, Glen who’s a player. (He pulls out a cell phone the size of two baseball mitts in a car on stage as he cancels their anniversary dinner.) Wow, you want to smack him, although Coyne does an outstanding star turn in the greed is good number “All About the Green.” But there are lovely friendships who help the couple. Sammy (an awesome Hunter Brown) is Robbie’s hubba hubba confident guitarist, derelict of social elan, hiding a good heart, who is still hot for Holly (a wonderful singing and dancing Katie LaMark), Julia’s cousin. Holly is a hilarious streetwise Madonna wannabe, who ultimately tries to push Julie towards Robbie. George (Joseph Frederick Allen who helped create the roles of Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade in Broadway’s Something Wicked This Way Comes,) the Boy George bandmate is endearingly and terrifically funny and Grandma Rose, (Janet Aldrich) supportive of Robbie, has a feisty, hip side. (Like getting a Motel 6 vibrating bed as a pre-Linda altar leaving wedding present to her grandson.) Her “Move That Thang” with George has amazing bust out moves. Watch her flip over.) As for the memorable scenes, it’s hard to pick one. Robbie sings “I’m a Casualty of Love,” as he has a meltdown at a wedding after Linda dumps him, points to losers in love, who pick up the theme in a spirited zombie romp. P.S. The bride socks Robbie. And who has a charming “Come Out of the Dumpster,” song next to creamed corn and banana peels in a sweet duet with Julia? When Robbie turns to bar mitzvahs because he can’t face singing at weddings, Robbie, Sam and George embellish a hilarious, full-throated “Today You Are a Man.” Okay, we’re getting warmer. “Saturday Night in the City,” with Holly and the full cast is high energy, Studio 54 spirited, sinuous dancing with a “Flashdance” scene at the end. (No pizza for me for a year.) But the Las Vegas wedding scene where Robbie takes a plane (even the prop is hilarious) to convince Julia to marry him and not Glen is priceless. In a chapel presided by celebrity lookalikes including President Ronald Reagan with his wife Nancy playing the organ, Billy Idol, Cindy Lauper, Mr. T, and oh my God, even Imelda Marcos shoving Glen with a Ferragamo shoe box is brilliant. This show is packed with great heart with a lot of witty wink references to the era.

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Smithtown Matters

January 31, 2023 - Cindi Sansone-Braff

The Wedding Singer at the Gateway is Bursting with Over-the-Top Talent

The Wedding Singer, The Musical Comedy, is based on the 1988 movie of the same name, which starred Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. This Broadway musical picked up five Tony Award nominations, including “Best Musical,” eight Drama Desk Awards, and three Drama League Awards. The upbeat, fun, ’80s-style music is by Matthew Sklar, the lyrics are by Chad Beguelin, and the book is by Tim Herlihy and Chad Beguelin.

This well-crafted musical is a nostalgic rom-com romp set in the mid-1980s, a decade of excess. In keeping with the zeitgeist, Madonna’s “Material Girl” became the anthem for this “Decade of Greed.” At the same time, Ivan Boesky and Michael Milken encouraged the youth of America to follow the almighty dollar sign. So, it’s no wonder that Robbie Hart, the protagonist of The Wedding Singer, is torn between following his dream to make music or pursuing a more lucrative career on Wall Street. When the musical opens, Robbie is New Jersey’s most sought-after wedding singer whose life falls apart when he’s jilted at the altar. His despair, dejection, and depression lead him down the road to ruin, and as a result, he becomes the wedding singer from hell. At his lowest point, he finds himself tossed in a dumpster, and this scene is pivotal in the musical because this is where and when Robbie first begins to connect with the waitress, Julia Sullivan.

I was so looking forward to seeing Stony Brook resident Douglas Goodhart in the lead role of Robbie Hart. Unfortunately, Mr. Goodhart contracted COVID-19 and could not make the opening night. I wish this Long Island talent a speedy recovery so he can get back onstage soon. In the meantime, the show must go on, and the incredibly talented Jose Contreras stepped in at the last moment to save the day. Mr. Contreras gave a strong performance as Robbie, aptly displaying his vocal and comedic talents, especially during his solo, “Somebody Kill Me.” Sarah Ellis was believable and likable as Julia Sullivan, a naïve, trusting, kind young woman engaged to a womanizing Wall Street wheeler-dealer. There was great onstage chemistry between Ms. Ellis and Mr. Contreras, and they rocked their outrageous duet, “Come Out of the Dumpster.”

Janet Aldrich was outstanding as Robbie’s young-at-heart, hot-to-trot, up-close-and-personal grandmother. Ms. Aldrich revealed her strong comedic skills throughout the show, and her solo, “A Note from Grandma,” made the audience burst out in spontaneous laughter when she referred to Robbie’s ex as “… a skanky whore.”

Bill Coyne aced the role of Glen Guglia, a Wall Street broker who, like Gordon Gekko in Oliver Stone’s 1987 film Wall Street, believes “Greed is Good.” Glen made his philosophy about what matters in life plain and clear when he belted out the tune “All About the Green.” The line in that song, “But if you sell your soul, at least you’ve made a sale,” sums up this shallow, sleazy, and unscrupulous character who hawks junk bonds and shamelessly engages in insider trading. Glen Guglia lives for impressing others, driving a flashy car, splurging on cocaine, and dining in high-end restaurants while dressed for success in his expensive tailored suits and power ties. He is the “King of Conspicuous Consumption,” gobbling up the latest high-tech gadgets like CD players and cellular phones.

Joseph Frederick Allen was excellent as gender-fluid George, a character based on the performer Boy George. With his intense facial expressions, expressive body language, and stellar vocals, Mr. Allen was a scene-stealer. His rendition of “George’s Prayer” was spot-on, funny, and one of the show’s highlights.

Kelly MacMillan gave a showstopping performance as Linda, Robbie’s vampy ex. She put her powerhouse vocals and athletic dance moves to good use during “Let Me Come Home,” a racy, high-energy number that was her desperate attempt to win Robbie back.

Katie Lamark gave a memorable performance as Holly, the sexy, fun-loving waitress with a heart of gold. I loved her crimped hair, micro-mini spandex skirts worn with fish nets, and leg warmers. As Sammy, Holly’s love interest, Hunter Brown proved to be a charismatic performer and a triple threat with his outstanding singing, dancing, and acting skills.

A special shoutout goes to all the incredibly talented Las Vegas impersonators strutting their stuff during the White House Wedding Chapel Scene. The ensemble of superstars included Shannon Conboy, Erin Fish, Ashley Klinger, Sarah Lindsey, Mikaela Rada, Renee Marie Titus, Matthew Blum, Peyton Cassity, Jose Contreras, Anthony DaSilva, George P. Roberts, and David Tanciar. Swings include Kimberly Hudman and Steven Gagliano.

The Wedding Singer is brilliantly directed and choreographed by veteran director Keith Andrews. The superb choreography was reminiscent of the riveting dance numbers performed in Flashdance and Michael Jackson’s blockbuster music video Thriller.

If you love the 80s and enjoy a good night at the theater, drop everything and get your tickets to the Gateway’s lush and lavish production of The Wedding Singer.

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The Theater Guide

Feb. 26, 2023 - Jessica Kennedy

The Wedding Singer – Gateway Playhouse – Theatre Review

Feeling nostalgic lately? Love watching Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore fall in love amidst a warm and fuzzy rom-com plot? If so, then you will love Gateway Theater’s newest mainstage production of The Wedding Singer. Directed by Keith Andrews and running from January 27- February 26, this performance is guaranteed to make you smile.

Based on the 1998 film by the same name, this play follows Robbie Hart, wedding singer extraordinaire, as he grieves the failure of his own happily ever after- then finds it again with his true perfect match. This musical premiered on Broadway in 2006 and was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Musical the same year. The play has the same basic plot, characters, and fan favorite songs as the film; including the finale song that made the movie’s ending so satisfying- the tear jerkingly tender “Grow Old with You.”

The casting of this show was very effective and enjoyable. Douglas Goodhart’s Robbie Hart felt reminiscent of Sandler’s, while also unique and utterly charming in his own way; his rendition of the infamous “Somebody Kill Me” was hysterical. Julia Sullivan is just as sweet and affable as Barrymore when played by the talented Sarah Ellis; along with Katie Lamark as the playful and promiscuous Holly, their dynamic was both fun and heartfelt. Bill Coyne pulled off the greedy, slimy persona of Glen Guglia with style and ease- his song “All About the Green” was a great opening to Act II! Kelly Macmillan nailed the attitude and posturing of Robbie’s ex- fiancé, Linda. Overall, this show is sprinkled throughout with lots of 90s references, jokes, and style! Robbie’s basement digs were perfect, as was Linda’s grunge look and Holly’s awesomely high hair! While the show does have a variety of new numbers, it stays true enough to the original to keep fans laughing in anticipation and smiling in sentimentality.

If you like your theater to be fun, feel good, and free spirited, then this is the show for you! Running time is 2 ½ hours with a 15 minute intermission.

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Dan's Papers

Feb. 3, 2023 - David Taylor

Musical Review: ‘The Wedding Singer’ at The Gateway Playhouse

The phrase “the show must go on” is a mantra often recited by those in the theater as a resolution to give the audience a spectacular show even when things have taken a turn for the worse behind the scenes.

For The Gateway’s current musical production, The Wedding Singer, the moment to prove their resolve came hours before opening night when the leading man, the wedding singer famously played by Adam Sandler, called in sick, and a member of the show’s ensemble stepped up to take the lead.

It would take a miracle to pull off a halfway-decent production under the circumstances, and somehow The Gateway surpassed all expectations.

By the time this review is published, Douglas Goodhart will have likely resumed his role as Robbie the wedding singer and, given his track record in previous Gateway shows, is sure to give a splendid performance, but on opening night, the audience was treated to a spectacular, practically impromptu performance by Jose Contreras.

Tapping into his experience portraying Robbie once before, Contreras assumed the role at noon on Friday, January 27 and was performing for an audience by 8 p.m. His take on Robbie captures Sandler’s essence to a tee — from the inflection of his voice to his manic energy — without making the portrayal seem like a celebrity impression.

This is helped by the actor’s attention to the more sincere, emotion-driven moments, which hit just as well as the more frequent comedic scenes and songs.

Contreras’ chemistry with Sarah Ellis, who portrayed Julia, is a joy to watch, but truly Ellis shares a delightful rapport with whomever she shares the stage with. Her scenes with Katie Lamark as the firecracker Holly are a special treat, with Holly’s loud, larger-than-life personality playing well off Julia’s quieter, more grounded personality.

Julia’s demeanor is misleading though, for she, or rather Ellis, has quite possibly the strongest, most well-tuned singing voice of the whole cast.

The Wedding Singer musical — book by Chad Beguelin and Tim Herlihy with music by Matthew Skylar — is a largely faithful retelling of the classic Sandler film, and serves as a massive nostalgia trip for those who hold fond memories of the 1980s.

And the comedic setting is tuned to ’80s perfection, replete with 20-pound cell phones, over-the-top outfits, massive hair and maybe even a Billy Idol appearance (impersonated by Peyton Cassity).

Jokes and antics are plentiful throughout the show, and most of them are poised to get a laugh out of the audience. While most of the characters crack jokes, the dedicated comic relief is George, played here by Joseph Frederick Allen.

The flamboyant, over-the-top parody of Boy George doles out many of The Wedding Singer’s biggest laughs — his solo song “George’s Prayer” chief among them — and Allen’s cheeky delivery endears him to the audience, so much so that by act two, audience members instinctively begin applauding whenever he walks onstage.

Also receiving a massive reaction from the audience is rapping grandma Rosie, played to perfection by Janet Aldrich. She juggles two opposing grandmother archetypes in a way that few other than Betty White can do well — sweet and doting, but also unpredictable and occasionally crass. Like Allen’s George, Aldrich’s Rosie is a clear audience favorite.

There are so many funny characters in this musical — from Robbie’s wildcard ex-fiancée Linda (Kelly MacMillan) to Holly’s will-they-won’t-they ex Sammy (Hunter Brown) and even the crazy bar bum (Steven Gagliano filling in for Contreras) — that Bill Coyne’s intense bravado as Glen stands out starkly. He plays the role of ’80s rom-com villain to a tee.

In total, the musical features a whopping 23 songs, none of which feel like they were added arbitrarily. Songs like Holly and Sammy’s “Right in Front of Your Eyes” are there to reveal the inner feelings of characters; Glen and Robbie’s “It’s All About the Green” is one of the big dance numbers that shows off the choreography; and Rosie and George’s “Move That Thang” is there to be laugh-out-loud hilarious.

“Saturday Night in the City” is The Wedding Singer’s big act one finale, and wow is it a showstopper. It’s a catchy song paired with fast-paced, multi-level choreography and nostalgic ’80s fashion including looks reminiscent of Cyndi Lauper, Miami Vice and A Flock of Seagulls.

However, Robbie’s “Casualty of Love” is arguably the show’s best blend of all three song categories: character insight, choreography and comedy. The “mutants over at table nine” (Matthew Blum, Sarah Lindsey, Anthony DaSilva and Mikaela Rada) deserve a special shoutout for their fantastically freakish dance moves.

One genius design aspect of this production is that other than the intermission, there is zero dead air — no waiting in darkness as the black-clad crew shuffles set pieces around.

Utilizing multiple curtains at varying depths onstage, similar to Broadway’s Moulin Rouge, the cast is able to conclude a big scene on an intricate set, then close a curtain while a smaller scene with one or two characters continues at the front of the stage.

When the curtain opens back up, the ensemble is already bringing the next scene to life. It’s a boon to the show’s pacing, and just an impressive feat of stage production, so props to director/choreographer Keith Andrews and production stage manager James O. Hansen.

The Gateway’s first Broadway-esque musical to be produced in January is a smashing success; it’s just a shame the snowbirds will miss out. But if this is the level of spectacle The Gateway is bringing to a winter show, their summer lineup must be shaping up to be a masterclass of talent and production.

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