Nancy Sasso Janis
Now in its third year, the drama program at Landmark Community Theatre offers teens from the area real world experience, with qualified production staff, in all aspects of the performing arts. The culminating activity is a high quality, full-scale musical production and it was presented this weekend at the Thomaston Opera House. The Student Theatre worked together this summer to bring to the stage three performances of a musical cult comedy, ‘The Wedding Singer.’
The show is based upon the hit Adam Sandler movie and features a new score to bring us back to the ‘80s. Rock-star wannabe Robbie Hart is New Jersey’s favorite wedding singer. He is the life of the party until his own fiancee leaves him at the altar. He sets out to make every wedding as disastrous as his own until Julia, a winsome waitress, wins his affection. Unfortunately for him, Julia is about to be married to a Wall Street shark named Glen, and unless the wedding singer can pull of the best performance of his life, the girl of his dreams will be gone forever.
This cute story with a book by Chad Beguelin and Tim Herlihy is combined with music by Matthew Skylar and lyrics by Chad Beguelin . Slightly raunchy in parts but reportedly toned down for the teens, I wasn’t offended and found some of it to be the funniest bits at the final performance. What made it such an enjoyable production for me was the wealth of talent that united this summer to entertain us, while no doubt having a great time together. While I understand that Landmark can only produce as many performances as they think they can sell, it is too bad that there couldn’t have been more chances to catch it.
Connor Dunn played Robbie Hart, the in-demand wedding singer. Mr. Dunn proved once again that he can do pretty much anything onstage and do it well. This Thomaston High School graduate, who will head to SUNY Purchase in the fall, was the star of this one in a signature wig and a loud suit and he was so much fun to watch as he went into the downward arc of his character’s life (as odd as that may sound.)
The wedding singer’s bandmates were played to perfection by WAMS senior Nolan Cummings as Sammy and Wolcott’s Thomas Bergamo as the Boy George wannabe named George. These two talented young men showed off their comedic talents in these fun roles. Zachery Cipriano gave a strong performance as the rich but unfaithful Glen that doesn’t deserve the lovely Julia.
Jess Cocomazzi, a rising junior at Chase Collegiate School, played the wedding banquet hall waitress beautifully. I last saw this young performer as the Ghost of Christmas Past at Landmark in one of her four shows at the TOH. Her sidekick is her cousin and fellow waitress Holly and the wonderfully talented Marley Thompson played that role for all it was worth in her first teen production at the Opera House. Rhiannon Carta (Evelyn Nesbit in ‘Ragtime’ at the Warner…”wheee”) played the fickle and sensual fiancee Linda and then danced really well in the ensemble. Kudos to all of these ladies on their standout performances.
Another standout was the always memorable Lauren Stango in the role of Robbie’s spry grandmother Rosie. Now a rising sophomore at Pomperaug HS where she recently played Amy in ‘Little Women,’ this young actress showed off her comedic timing and dancing skills. She rocked both “A Note from Grandma” and “Move that Thang.” Reilly Lincavicks, a rising senior from Southington who attends the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts for Musical Theatre, appeared much older in the role of Julia’s mother due to her acting and another good wig.
In the fabulous ensemble that danced up a storm were Alison Hudson, Allison VanDerlyn, Amber Clavette, Christy Dzubay, Dan Smyth-Temple, Gillian Russo, Grace Consonni (Cyndi Lauper impersonator,) Jennifer Beveridge, Jon Yatco, Joshua Rodis, Joshua Viltrakis (Ronald Reagan impersonator,) Julia Squillace (Imelda Marcos impersonator,) Kasey Geremia, Lillianna McGrath, Lindsay Cronin, Lindsay Sawyer, Megan Foell, Morgan Griffin, Stephanie O’Keefe, and Victoria Bottass.
Dan Checovetes directed the teens to bring to life an era that none of the students were alive to witness, and he credits them in his notes with having done a “fantastic job of recreating the decade.” They were also helped by the amazing period costumes by Debbie Cashman that were big and bright.The simple set designed by the director allowed the outstanding orchestra to sit onstage upon an elevated platform and almost be a part of the action. The talented group included Music Director AJ Bunel on keyboard, TJ Thompson (Marley’s dad) on keyboard, Meric Martin on guitar, Mark Wilcox on guitar, Paul Bilodeau on bass and Noel Roberge on percussion. They simply rocked. Congratulations to the choreographer Jennifer Bunger on bringing her 80’s to the stage.