Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

wedding singers

Chris Commander as George, Tim Gough as Robbie, and Robbie Newton as Sammy - the wedding singers

The Wedding Singer

Sutton Arts Theatre


A FUN show with a happy ending, a young cast full of infectious enthusiasm, lively songs, well sung to a fine band, all jam-packed with the feel-good factor; so what's not to like?

Sutton Arts set the bar remarkably high with West Side Story last year, their first musical for years, and although The Wedding robbie and JuliaSinger does not quite reach those heady heights, it is a close run thing.

It is an excellent show in what seems to be the start of a Sutton Arts tradition of an annual big production musical. Next year’s show has already been announced, incidentally, with Hello Dolly!

Based on the 1998 cult film, the story is simple. Wedding singer Robbie and waitress Julia are both in love with each other and are both engaged . . .but not to each other. Bummer!

Tim Gough as Robbie Hart and Gemma Smyth as Julia Sullivan

What a pity . . . but we all know true love will win out in the end so, unless this is going to be the shortest musical of all time, there is a couple of hours of trials and tribulations, emotional heartache and plenty of laughs, before our young lovers end up in each other’s arms.

Tim Gough is an eminently likable lad as Robbie, good looking, nice smile and with a fine pop voice - and a sort of bouffant hairstyle which seems to have cornered half the locks in Sutton.

Character development is not one of the strong points of this musical from Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin, but Gough manages to convey the simple emotional rollercoaster well as his life first falls apart, and then slowly rebuilds around Julia to its final happy climax.

Gemma Smyth as Julia is a delight. She is an attractive young lady and has a lovely, clear mezzo soprano voice with every word clear as a bell. Like Gough she shows her changing emotions well and although their characters are a bit two dimensional the pair of them manage to get you caring about Robbie and Julia and whollyhat happens to them. And you can’t ask more of your leads than that. A talented pair who sing nicely together.

Around them, adding strong vocal support, are Robbie’s band with George, the gay keytar player with a sort of Jewish dreadlock hairstyle, played in fine style, nicely camp without becoming stereotyped, by Chris Commander and on rhythm guitar, Sammy, played in a laid back style by Robbie Newton. Good natured Sammy is not one of nature’s gifted intellectuals, but his heart is in the right place – even if his brain is struggling to keep up.

Phebe Jackson as Holly

Sammy is the ex of Julia’s cousin and best friend Holly, a fellow waitress, played by Phebe Jackson, another with a lovely voice. She dismisses Sammy’s attempts at any reconciliation, but with two hours and a happy ending to go . . . who knows?

Then we have the fiancées; first up is Linda, who decides she wants an in yer face rock star not an MOR wedding singer like Robbie. Louise Conway shows us the two sides of Linda, the supposedly sweet girl unsure about marriage and the raunchy Linda with a dance that steamed up quite a few glasses down the front few rows. She also has a powerful voice, just made for rock or jazz.

And in Julia’s corner we have Glen Gulia, played with vainglorious egotism by Paul Atkins. Glen, permatan, no doubt a gold chain, is a junk bond trader and the sort of bloke you instinctively want to punch. A nice portrayal of hedonistic conceit.

There is a lovely character cameo from Mavis Atkinson as Robbie’s grandma, Rosie. The sweet old lady with the less than innocent poems and asides. There is something surreal about grey haired grannies chucking in profanities with a blameless beaming smile.

Then there is the ensemble, all 22 of themrosie, playing wedding guests, drunks, fake Billy Idol, Tina Turner and so on as well as chorus and dancers.

Choreographer Anna Forster has done a fine job on the dance numbers. These are not professional dancers but she has produced some well drilled, fairly complex routines to add real interest to the musical numbers. The music coming from an excellent seven piece at the back of the stage.

Mavis Atkinson as sweet old granny Rosie 

Director Dexter Whitehead, responsible for West Side Story incidentally, has instilled the need for a good pace in his cast and, as with last year’s production, using the full stage with its lack of flies and wings and meant some ingenuity was needed which was provided with a Legoland of a set from Whitehead and Sutton Arts own team.

Robbie’s bedroom is a fold out bed in the corner, Rosie’s house and Julia’s house are both walls rolled out from the side, everything else whether dumpster or bar, boxes for tables or a collection of chairs are magicked out of the side stage gloom. Everything is carried, pulled, folded or rolled on and off by the cast as they enter or exit which means scene changes are rapid and seamless with no dead pauses to break up the rhythm.

A mention too for the excellent costumes and garish band garb produced by assistant director Emily Armstrong and Phebe Jackson.

A bank of six video screens with both graphics and visuals along with two smoke generators all add to the atmosphere in what is a very entertaining and very funny production with many of the laughs coming from throwaway asides. The result is a fun, entertaining show which saw everyone leaving with a spring in their step and a smile on their face.  To 25-06-16

Roger Clarke


Perhaps the stars of the show on Friday were chairman Colin Edge and his team after Plants Brook, running behind the theatre, overflowed overnight and the front row, lower than ground level, was under six inches of water which had to be pumped out and carpets dried in a frantic battle against time before curtain up, which was managed with little time to spare. 

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