x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

The Wedding Singer: the musical in Abu Dhabi

Each spring, the Abu Dhabi Choral Group produces a Broadway musical and this week, they are taking audiences back to the 1980s with The Wedding Singer, based on the hit 1998 movie starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore.

Melody Pino as Julia Sullivan and Paul Moore as Robbie Hart in The Wedding Singer. Fatima Al Marzouqi / The National
Melody Pino as Julia Sullivan and Paul Moore as Robbie Hart in The Wedding Singer. Fatima Al Marzouqi / The National

When boy meets girl

The Wedding Singer is a classic, yet unconventional story of boy meets girl and one that raises the question of what it means to truly fall in love.

The musical version, which is almost identical to the film but also features a couple of original songs, was first performed on Broadway in 2006 in Manhattan’s Al Hirschfield Theatre and received numerous Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical and Best Original Score. Alana Barraj, the vice chairwoman of the Abu Dhabi Choral Group (ADCG)and the producer of the forthcoming production, says having seen the Broadway version the year it was introduced, she was in awe and is confident the UAE audience will be left with the same emotion.

The ADCG was first founded 33 years ago and presents two major productions each year.

“Many people are familiar with the movie and its popular songs, such as Somebody Kill Me and Grow Old with You,” says Barraj, a Lebanese-American.

“It’s a classic. It takes the main theme of love to another level because you have a main character, Robbie Hart, who believes in being in love until the very end.”

Love to hate

Featuring an all UAE-based team of 42 of ADCG’s permanent members and volunteers, The Wedding Singer takes us back to 1985, where the small-town wedding singer Robbie (played by Sandler in the movie), who dreams of one day becoming a respected singer-songwriter, is getting ready to walk down the aisle with the woman he loves.

However, when the unthinkable happens and his fiancée stands him up at the altar, Robbie retreats to his sister’s basement, where he lives, and hides from the outside world. Sandler’s character reminds us during his memorable and comical performance of the song Love Stinks that weddings, once a healthy and fulfilling source of income for him, are now to be feared and somewhat detested.

Ironically, the only thing eventually bringing him a degree of comfort and normality is the friendship that develops between him and the waitress Julia Sullivan. While she convinces Robbie to help her prepare for and sing at her wedding, both quickly realise the feelings they have for each other are more than just platonic, thus creating a few expected dilemmas.

Follow your heart

“This is not your traditional love story,” says the Abu Dhabi-based actor Paul Moore, playing Robbie. “He [Robbie] goes through such an emotional journey and as an actor, it’s really interesting because he’s so diverse. He gets dumped by his girlfriend and it’s his friends who pick him back up. Robbie at first thinks money and wealth are important in life but Julia falls in love with him for his quirky characteristics.”

Moore hopes the audience will walk away knowing that to live and love is about being true to one’s self, contrary to what others may think.

“Robbie thinks to impress Julia, he needs to have the car, big house, etc, but it’s not why she loves him and that takes him a while to realise,” says Moore, 33, from Northern Ireland. “It’s a real feel-good show and ridiculously funny with a few heartbreaking moments. For Melody Pino, who plays Julia, the story is wonderfully romantic.

The Wedding Singer is timeless. It’s about following your heart and not just about looking for love but welcoming it when it comes,” says the 28-year-old Filipino. “Julia is a good girl and although she always sees the good in people, she is not naive.”

Soul music

Barraj, who also plays the role of Julia’s cousin and best friend Holly, a “simple girl with big dreams”, says to expect bright and outrageous costumes.

“We went big on the 1980s theme,” she admits. “There’s also an interesting mix of music and motion even when a song is being performed, so there’s never a boring moment.”

The only thing she gives away about the set is that it resembles “Tetris pieces” and that it would all make sense only on the night.

The music is also extremely instrumental to the story, so expect plenty of 1980s classics from artists such as Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper and Billy Idol. All the actors will be singing live alongside an orchestra.

“The music is very powerful and has subtextual links. Like any good musical, it helps tie certain themes and introduces characters,” says the show’s music director Chris Roebuck, from the US. “Songs such as Grow Old with You are charming and its lyrics are not of a normal love ballad. The song speaks of little things everyone can relate to.”

This, he says, represents tangible, true love.

The show starts on Thursday and continues until Monday at Brighton College, Abu Dhabi. Tickets cost Dh80. For more details, visit www.abudhabichoralgroup.com


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