Enjoy yourself; it’s the 80’s with panache

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Who would have thought 1985 Ridgefield, New Jersey in the popular era of big hair, Masters of the Universe, club life, and rock music would offer such endearing nostalgia, but it’s the perfect backdrop for Robbie, a kind wedding singer who wants to get married, write songs, head a successful band with his buddies, and move out of his grandmother’s basement. Julia, (Sarah Ellis, a divinely pitch perfect vocalist who adorably plays the beautiful, kind waitress encouraging him), also wants to get hitched. The story launched a wildly successful Adam Sandler movie and Broadway musical and The Gateway’s The Wedding Singer’s debut in Bellport Friday night was a happily raucous, upbeat, talented ensemble of gorgeous comets who shot their acting and dancing chops out to the audience with joy and abandon. It even had a nail-biting, the show-must-go on, back story. That morning, when lead Douglas Goodheart as Robbie the wedding singer discovered he had Covid, ensemble actor Jose Contreras (understudy for Robbie’s friend Sammy,) was tapped to step into the main spotlight. This tenor with belt, has theater and regional theater credits that happily included The Wedding Singer. Contreras got right into the first scene at the Reception Hall singing “It’s Your Wedding Day” owning the role as Robbie. We were hooked. Please…take this sweet guy home. Both leads have yukky fiancés; Robbie is ditched at the altar by vapid Linda (Kelly MacMillan plays this trashy, ferocious minx to the hilt); Julia is romanced by Glen Guglia (Bill Coyne). Coyne personifies the slick, pompous, Glen who’s a player. (He pulls out a cell phone the size of two baseball mitts in a car on stage as he cancels their anniversary dinner.) Wow, you want to smack him, although Coyne does an outstanding star turn in the greed is good number “All About the Green.” But there are lovely friendships who help the couple. Sammy (an awesome Hunter Brown) is Robbie’s hubba hubba confident guitarist, derelict of social elan, hiding a good heart, who is still hot for Holly (a wonderful singing and dancing Katie LaMark), Julia’s cousin. Holly is a hilarious streetwise Madonna wannabe, who ultimately tries to push Julie towards Robbie. George (Joseph Frederick Allen who helped create the roles of Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade in Broadway’s Something Wicked This Way Comes,) the Boy George bandmate is endearingly and terrifically funny and Grandma Rose, (Janet Aldrich) supportive of Robbie, has a feisty, hip side. (Like getting a Motel 6 vibrating bed as a pre-Linda altar leaving wedding present to her grandson.) Her “Move That Thang” with George has amazing bust out moves. Watch her flip over.) As for the memorable scenes, it’s hard to pick one. Robbie sings “I’m a Casualty of Love,” as he has a meltdown at a wedding after Linda dumps him, points to losers in love, who pick up the theme in a spirited zombie romp. P.S. The bride socks Robbie. And who has a charming “Come Out of the Dumpster,” song next to creamed corn and banana peels in a sweet duet with Julia? When Robbie turns to bar mitzvahs because he can’t face singing at weddings, Robbie, Sam and George embellish a hilarious, full-throated “Today You Are a Man.” Okay, we’re getting warmer. “Saturday Night in the City,” with Holly and the full cast is high energy, Studio 54 spirited, sinuous dancing with a “Flashdance” scene at the end. (No pizza for me for a year.) But the Las Vegas wedding scene where Robbie takes a plane (even the prop is hilarious) to convince Julia to marry him and not Glen is priceless. In a chapel presided by celebrity lookalikes including President Ronald Reagan with his wife Nancy playing the organ, Billy Idol, Cindy Lauper, Mr. T, and oh my God, even Imelda Marcos shoving Glen with a Ferragamo shoe box is brilliant. This show is packed with great heart with a lot of witty wink references to the era. It’s playing to February 26 in Bellport. Get tickets at www.thegateway.org, or call 631-286-1133.