Flashback Friday: ‘The Wedding Singer’ quirky 80s style still charms

Is there anything better than the thought of paying to see Stephen Lynch frolicking around on stage with a guitar as Laura Benanti belts her heart out? At one point, this was a reality. For a fantastic, albeit brief, time in Broadway history, Stephen and Laura could be seen together live on stage eight times a week.

The Wedding Singer opened at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre on April 27, 2006. In the brief few months before it closed on December 31, 2006, it lit up Broadway with 1980s charm, complete with Tab references and candy-colored party dresses.

Stephen Lynch in "The Wedding Singer."

Stephen Lynch in “The Wedding Singer.”

The musical is based on the 1998 film which has gone down in pop culture history as a beloved romantic comedy classic. It tells the story of small-town New Jersey wedding singer Robbie Hart whose fiancée leaves him at the altar on the day of the ceremony. When he befriends local waitress Julia Sullivan, who is in a doomed engagement to a jerk, sparks fly. Well, sparks attempt to fly as Robbie and Julia try to remain “just friends” and deny their feelings for each other as he helps her plan her wedding. After a series of mishaps and mixed emotions, including the revelation that Julia’s fiancé is a lying cheater, she and Robbie end up together. Their quirky adventures are endearing enough on their own but the fact that they take place in oh-so-fashionable 1985 makes them that much more fun to watch.

While the film features Hollywood legends Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, Broadway’s Wedding Singer starred the equally charming Stephen Lynch and theatre megastar Laura Benanti.

Stephen Lynch, who made his Broadway debut in the production, is most recognized for his career as a singing comedian. His time onstage is usually spent sharing his delightful politically incorrect lyrics with fans across the country. As it turns out, Stephen’s talent isn’t limited to the comedy circuit. He put his guitar and vocal skills to use on Broadway and wowed audiences enough to earn himself a Tony Award nomination.

Laura Benanti has long been known as a power diva of Broadway and The Wedding Singer showcased her talents brilliantly.

Others featured in the show included Amy Spanger and Richard H. Blake.

Laura Benanti encourages Stephen Lynch to "Come Out of the Dumpster" in "The Wedding Singer."

Laura Benanti encourages Stephen Lynch to “Come Out of the Dumpster” in “The Wedding Singer.”

The most memorable moments of the film version translate into onstage songs like “A Note From Linda,” “Somebody Kill Me Please,” “Casualty of Love,” “Come Out of the Dumpster” and the heartfelt “Grow Old With You.”

Not only is The Wedding Singer hilarious but it’s adorable. Dancers prance around in candy-colored wedding dresses and the performers’ perms couldn’t get any bigger. If the show wasn’t fantastic enough already, it even includes a recreation of Flashdance and a Tina Turner impersonation.

The Wedding Singer may not be traditional theatre but it’s the kind of musical that makes for a fun evening and it deserved a longer run to live out its purposefully and cheerfully tacky 1985 glory.

Though it spent less than a year on Broadway, the show was nominated for several Tony Awards including Best Musical which proves it obviously made an impact on theatergoers. A Wedding Singer national tour embarked shortly after closing on Broadway and it has been licensed for performance by schools and community theatres throughout the country.

Luckily for fans of Broadway shows past (and which Broadway fan isn’t?), this production was preserved forever in a cast recording and the vocals on that album still sound as shiny and fresh as they did in 2006.

We can only hope that someday its bright 80s-pop sounds will return to Broadway to be experienced live and in color once again.

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About Claire H.

Writer, performer, picture-taker, New Yorker. Find me on Twitter at @Claire_Hannum.

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