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My Gay Toronto - MGT Stage

The romance of the ’80s

by Drew Rowsome

Were the '80s really this much fun? They certainly are an instant nostalgic jokey reference cornucopia - the fashions! the pop music! Wall Street greed! Michael Jackson! sexual ambiguity! - and The Wedding Singer takes full advantage of the touchstones of the era. Fortunately the production at Hart House doesn't resort to outright mockery and has a gentle affectionate tone that turns the punchlines into laughs of recognition instead of derision.

The tone is set by an amiable lead performance by Isaac Bell who turns an everyman anti-hero into a charming star turn. Gangly and scruffy but with charisma radiating out of his expressive puppy dog eyes, he wisely withholds his money notes unless absolutely necessary and is all the more appealing for it. In a production as busy as this - a large energetic cast and a constantly shifting set cleverly referencing Tetris - he provides a non-showy centre that grabs attention.

The tone is set by an amiable lead performance by Isaac Bell who turns an everyman anti-hero into a charming star turn. Gangly and scruffy but with charisma radiating out of his expressive puppy dog eyes, he wisely withholds his money notes unless absolutely necessary and is all the more appealing for it. In a production as busy as this - a large energetic cast and a constantly shifting set cleverly referencing Tetris - he provides a non-showy centre that grabs attention.

The score is pilfered from, make that "references," various '80s sources and relies too much on exposition, but it all moves along and there are delightful ideas and melodies that surface. "Casualty of Love" is a big number that mixes the misfit toys exiled to table 9 with "Thriller" zombies and juggles some intriguing and uneasy themes in a fast-paced frenzy. Ashley Gibson sells the witty but under-melodicized "Come Out of the Dumpster" and when she and Bell finally get their big number, "If I Told You," they tug at the tear ducts and create a moment of romantic beauty. Scott Farley steals every scene he enters or exits as the flamboyant - but fortunately in this production proudly out - George. I only wish we had got to hear the full rendition of "George's Prayer" without the pesky plot necessities. His duet with the rapping granny, Charlotte Cattell, upstages the finale and he turns a one-note joke of a character into a force of nature that can't be ridiculed.

Of particular note is Sarah Horsman as the "skanky whore" Linda, but then her two numbers are derivative of '80s metal and she rides that cheesy energy full tilt and well deserves the best - excluding the zippered parachute pants and Billy Idol and Tina Turner wannabes - sight gags of the evening. Hunky Conor Scully and Christopher Webb do the heavy lifting in the ensemble dance department and special mention must be made of Jonathan Dufour's hirsute eye candy as a bridge-and-tunneller who steals focus just by being shirtless.



The Wedding Singer
 has nothing more on its agenda than to entertain and it succeeds admirably. As the run settles in, and the cast can soar without having to compensate for technical malfunctions, The Wedding Singer should become a delicious entertainment. And if it retains its copious charms it will be an entertainment to remember.

The Wedding Singer continues until Sat, Jan 25 at Hart House Theatre, 7 Hart House Circle. harthousetheatre.ca


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