Romantic comedy is also 1980s social commentary
The Wedding Singer, a fun and energetic romp set in the 1980s, is “a love story that is universal and timeless; it could happen any time,” says Charles Packard, executive producer at the Aurora Fox Arts Center and director of the Stapleton production. “But the way the script is written, it’s essential that it’s set in the 1980s. The language, costumes and music are all about the ’80s, along with social commentary pertinent to that decade.”
The musical is Stapleton’s seventh annual Theater on the Green production by The Aurora Fox. Packard said the free show, starting at 7pm each night, is aimed at young parents who came of age in the ’80s. “It’s also for the kids, who will be enthralled with the dancing, the music and the joy.”
The Wedding Singer, a 1998 movie that was adapted as a Broadway musical in 2006, is the story of Robbie, New Jersey’s favorite wedding singer, and Julia, a winsome waitress. Both are engaged to be married, but to the wrong people. Fortune intervenes to help them discover each other.
“The musical is quite different from the movie because it features all new original songs, written in ’80s style,” Packard said. “You’ll swear you’ve heard the songs; they sound so much like Journey or Michael Jackson. The musical tells the story through music, which builds empathy with the characters.”
The biggest challenge of producing outdoor theater is the weather, Packard said. “Every year there’s a different meteorological challenge. For last year’s Chicago we built a 250-bulb sign, and a hailstorm wiped out 200 of the bulbs. We build sets that are grounded for 40-mile-per-hour winds, but some we need to repaint, repair or totally remake during the run.”
Packard said The Wedding Singer, which will run less than two hours including intermission, will evoke the 1980s while meeting the demands of outdoor theater. “Our first consideration for costumes is that when the sun goes down it will hit the actors directly. The costumes need to be high contrast, allowing the actors’ faces to pop, so that they don’t wash out. After that, it’s all about fashion. The look and choreography will feel completely authentic to people who experienced the ’80s.”
The story of The Wedding Singer includes a social commentary about the money-driven 1980s mindset, Packard said. “Its subplot is the ambition for rapid financial success that drove a lot of people in the ’80s. Julia has to choose between love and money. The song All About the Green is about choosing money over love.
“It was the time of Reaganomics, which protected big businesses and helped high-income people to become even wealthier. The 1980s wasn’t the first decade to think that way: the ‘love or money’ question is legitimate to ask ourselves today. Setting the story in the past lowers the stakes so we can think about it.”