Opening night for the Shawnee Theatre’s 2009 season found the cast, staff and audience in a celebratory mood as they began their fiftieth season. Artistic Director Matt Graber had the news that Governor Daniels had declared the weekend “Shawnee Theatre Days” in honor of the theatre’s long running efforts.
In addition to thanking sponsors, patrons and staff Graber singled out at least one member of the community who’d been attending for all fifty years. He saluted a volunteer costumer who’s been dressing shows for fifteen years and even found three or four people who were first timers.
The first show of the season is a challenging musical version of the movie The Wedding Singer directed by Josh Carroll with choreography by Dustin Sorrell. It’s the ironic story of a scrambling wedding singer who’s left at the alter of his own wedding. Mathew Sklar’s music and Chad Beguelin’s lyrics do a nice job of evoking a not especially memorable musical era. The orchestra sounds, managed by Music Director James Nathan, were mostly on one side of the theatre and frequently masked the voices, but had the distinctive processed stamp of the period.
Shawnee Veteran Kevin Guthridge who played Hank Williams and Frank Sinatra in prior years had the Adam Sandler role as the singer. Amy Thomason was the girl who jilted him. Spirited newcomer Allie Beckman had the Drew Barrymore part as the friendly waitress. Wesley Whitaker was the self involved cold fish engaged to her. Michael Carey and Michael Detmer were the wedding singer’s sympathetic band mates. Jonathan Stewart was the singer’s salty old grandmother.
Although you might think that a story set in the gritty locale of 80s Jersey would be a rough fit for Bloomfield, but this is a community that very much cares for and supports its theatre. The opening night audience offered a very warm response, with applause for individual numbers and plenty of laughter, especially for some of the slightly racy language.
“The Wedding Singer” at the Shawnee Theatre continues with Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening performances at eight and Sunday matinees at 2 through June 21st.