Those Magic Mo­ments

APT fans will fall in love with ‘Wed­ding Singer’

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - WHAT'S UP - BECCA MARTIN-BROWN

Love is all about mo­ments — cul­mi­nat­ing, in a per­fect world, in the wed­ding to end all wed­dings.

The same might be said of “The Wed­ding Singer,” open­ing tonight at Arkansas Pub­lic Theatre in Rogers. Based on the 1988 movie star­ring Adam San­dler and Drew Bar­ry­more, the mu­si­cal can be seen as a whole — the story of Rob­bie, a wed­ding singer; his bro­ken ro­mance with Linda; his at­tempt at cor­po­rate Amer­ica; and, fi­nally, the happy end­ing with the girl of his dreams, Ju­lia. Or it can be seen as a se­ries of joy­ous mo­ments shared by a tal­ented cast with play­go­ers who know what to look for. These are my top seven.

MO­MENT I

In the open­ing num­ber, “It’s Your Wed­ding Day,” watch Anna Knight, whom you cer­tainly re­mem­ber as The Lady of the Lake in “Spa­malot,” steal the stage as the bride. As mu­sic di­rec­tor and con­duc­tor Lisa Auten will truth­fully tell you, not all who can dance can sing and vice versa. Knight can do both, and even as a mem­ber of the en­sem­ble, her joy is in­fec­tious. Just spend this whole song watch­ing her!

MO­MENT II

Dur­ing the open­ing scene, you’ll also meet Cody Robin­son, re­turn­ing to the APT stage in his first star­ring role as Rob­bie Hart. You’ll re­mem­ber him as Far­quaad in “Shrek: The Mu­si­cal” and Lonny in “Rock of Ages,” but you might be sur­prised to find out he walked out of his first APT au­di­tion be­fore be­ing cast.

“I heard they were do­ing ‘Hair­spray’ at what was then Rogers Lit­tle The­ater back in 2012, and I de­cided I was go­ing to go try for it,” he says. “I went to the first night of au­di­tions, and of course, I had to sing and dance. At call-backs, I had a mini-heart at­tack and left, just straight up walked out the door!”

Dance cap­tain Zachary McClure Deni­son en­cour­aged his dad, di­rec­tor Ed McClure, to call Robin­son and put him in the en­sem­ble — and they soon found out it wasn’t his first show. Grow­ing up in Gravette, Robin­son played high school foot­ball, was pres­i­dent of Se­lect Choir and ap­peared in plays. “I tried to find my­self by be­ing a Re­nais­sance man,” he says. “The prob­lem I’m hav­ing right now is be­ing a gym­nas­tics coach and yelling all day, then singing all night. But the best show in the world is an ’80s mu­si­cal!”

MO­MENT III

Kailee Mathews is im­me­di­ately en­gag­ing as Ju­lia when she and Robin­son sing “Awe­some,” the song Rob­bie Hart is try­ing to write for his fi­ancee. Mathews (Sher­rie Chris­tian in “Rock of Ages”) has a win­some, hope­ful qual­ity that makes her the per­fect ro­man­tic lead.

MO­MENT IV

Did I men­tion Robin­son can also play gui­tar? And while you’re watch­ing mu­si­cians, don’t for­get to watch Auten lead the live orches­tra. Her hands fly over the key­board, but her eyes never leave the stage. She is … well, the wed­ding co­or­di­na­tor.

MO­MENT V

In the McDonough wed­ding scene, Rob­bie has been dumped by Linda and lets out all his anger and pain in a song ti­tled “Ca­su­alty of Love.” If you’re not in the mood for ro­mance, this song will be your mo­ment — and Ju­lia’s next mo­ment, “Come Out of the Dump­ster,” is charm­ing.

MO­MENT VI

Sarah Mourit­sen was a heart­break­ing Sally Bowles in “Cabaret,” and she’s back as Ju­lia’s friend with the street smarts. Just be­fore in­ter­mis­sion, she blows the roof off the Vic­tory with “Satur­day Night in the City.”

MO­MENT VII

Ju­lia is in love with a guy named Glen Guglia, played by APT new­comer Brandtly Wheeler as an ar­ro­gant Wall Street wheeler-dealer who loves money more than he loves Ju­lia. The en­sem­ble helps him open Act II with “Noth­ing But the Green,” a song about what mat­ters most to him.

“Some of the dances look more spon­ta­neous — they do, af­ter all hap­pen at wed­dings,” says di­rec­tor Ed McClure. “But this is the full-on Broad­way-style dance num­ber — pre­cise and tight chore­og­ra­phy. We owe that to our chore­og­ra­pher, Jenella Young.”

Young says she stud­ied bal­let, tap, jazz and hip hop from the age of 4 through high school and has been chore­ograph­ing for APT for the past five years.

“I al­ways teach the hard­est ver­sion of dance steps, close to the Broad­way ver­sions,” she says of her work at APT. “Very rarely do I need to wa­ter things down. I love the clas­sic ’80s moves I’ve been able to teach [this time]. We’ve got ‘The Sprin­kler,’ ‘The Molly Ring­wald’ and even Michael Jack­son’s ‘Thriller’!”

That’s not all the mo­ments — just all the inches for this story. Keep your eyes on cast mem­bers you know and love — Michael My­ers (the Em­cee in “Cabaret”) and Ty Volz (Don­key in “Shrek”) as Rob­bie’s band­mates; and Kathy McClure (“Mame”) as Rob­bie’s rap­ping — and danc­ing — granny (al­though I think there’s some sleight of hand go­ing on there, Alix Keil!) But watch all of the en­sem­ble for the great mo­ments that hap­pen there.

You might think you’re not in the mood, but as the song says, love is what they do.

“Life is not mea­sured by the breaths we take, but by the mo­ments that take our breath away.”

PHOTO COUR­TESY LORI COL­LIER

Cody Robin­son, cen­ter, is “The Wed­ding Singer,” joined by his backup band, Ge­orge (Michael My­ers), left, and Sammy (Ty Volz) in the APT pro­duc­tion open­ing tonight.

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