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The Wedding Singer

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The Wedding Singer is a 1998 film starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. But, in 2006 a musical translation of The Wedding Singer premiered on Broadway. It played for 284 performances, over an eight month period, and generated a successful national touring show. Now the first homegrown West Coast production of The Wedding Singer has debuted at Long Beach’s own Musical Theatre West (through July 24).

Under Larry Raben’s energetic direction and with Spencer Liff’s combustible choreography we get two-dozen song and dance routines (with muscular musical direction from David Lamoureux) that tell a seemingly trite tale of the lovelorn titular character (set in the Go Go 1980s, with nods to Miami Vice-type fashion, Flashdance flashbacks, Michael Jackson’s one-handed glove, and other such Reagan-era fossils). Before long, though, we are won over by the breadth and depth of Chad Beguelin and Tim Herlihy’s script and Matthew Sklar’s musical composition  Herlihy is also the screenwriter for The Wedding Singer movie. What’s more, an outstanding cast of performers excels in its execution of this huge and billowy production (with a dozen and-a-half players).

The story focuses on Robbie Hart, a much in-demand New Jersey wedding singer (Ciaran McCarthy in a noteworthy and arduous performance), who is set to marry blond bombshell Linda (an impressive Kelli Provart). On his own wedding day, Robbie is left alone at the altar; Linda is a nuptial no-show. Dismayed and in despair, Robbie begins to act-out his matrimonial resentments at his singing gigs. Sigmund Freud’s longstanding definition of psychological healthfulness is the ability to love and to work. By that standard, Robbie now has certifiable issues with regard to his mental hygiene. Temper tantrums, fisticuffs, and ultimately expulsions from chapels and churches throw Robbie’s life into turmoil, affecting not only him but also his band members, Sammy and George (Nick Bernardi and Matthew J. Vargo, respectively, are each quirky and consummate in both voice and characterization).

To further complicate matters, Julia, working as a local waitress, is a friend to Robbie. Unbeknownst to Julia, her fiancée is an untrustworthy lady’s man named Glen Guglia (the striking Derek Keeling). When Julia’s cousin, Holly (a spectacular Jenna Coker-Jones), insists that Julia practice her upcoming wedding kiss with the guileless and vulnerable Robbie, sparks fly and pheromones are in the air.

With sturdy support from pro performers like Mary Jo Catlett, as Robbie’s lascivious grandma Rosie (Catlett’s duet with Matthew J. Vargas’s is a high-point of this staging), and enthralling ensemble members of the caliber of Mark C. Reis and Tracy Lore, The Wedding Singer has more electricity  than a lighted bridal gown plugged into a wall socket. Not only is it vitally entertaining, The Wedding Singer is surprisingly and sweetly poignant. Amidst the laughter, this MTW effort has discovered the show’s tender heart. It’s no wonder that Robbie’s surname is Hart.

The Wedding Singer, a Musical Theatre West continues at the Richard and Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center—6200 East Atherton Street, Long Beach (on the CSULB campus)—through July 24. Show times are Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. Matinees are at 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. (Also, on Sunday July 17 at 7 p.m. there’s a performance.) For reservations, dial (562) 858 – 1999, ext. 4. For online ticketing and further information, visit



Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”


Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.