31 March 2023

Griffith's Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore cast in Wedding Singer musical

| Oliver Jacques
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Lara Calabria and Jesse Aviu with a microphone

Lara Calabria and Jesse Aviu re-create the famous Wedding Singer promo image. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

Popular local singers Jesse Aviu and Lara Calabria have been cast in the lead roles of the upcoming production of the Griffith Regional Theatre’s The Wedding Singer, a musical version of the cult 1980s nostalgia film released in 1998.

Mr Aviu, who was a toddler when the film appeared in cinemas, is thrilled to be taking the role of wannabe rock star Robbie (played by Adam Sandler in the movie).

“I watched a lot of Adam Sandler movies growing up, I enjoyed his comedic style, especially in [the film] 50 First Dates,” he said. “I have to admit I hadn’t seen all of The Wedding Singer but I watched it all just before I started rehearsing and thought, ‘This is awesome’.

“I’ve never been a lead on the stage like this, I’ve been in a play in high school and worked backstage before, but this is a first for me.”

Adam Sandler with microphone next to Drew Barrymore

Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore in the original movie. Photo: Internet Movie Database.

The Wedding Singer is about musician Robbie Hart, considered the life of the party until his own fiancee leaves him at the altar. Shot through the heart, Robbie makes every wedding as disastrous as his own. Enter Julia, a winsome waitress who wins his affection. As luck would have it, Julia is about to be married to a Wall Street shark, and, unless Robbie can pull off the performance of a decade, the girl of his dreams will be gone forever.

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The Griffith production is being directed by Katherine Innes, a drama teacher at Murrumbidgee Regional High School, who previously wowed audiences with her production of Legally Blonde, another popular film remade as a stage musical.

“It’s quite a trend. If you want to make a musical that gets people through the door, then make something they already know and love. This sort of ’80s nostalgia is something Griffith audiences will enjoy,” Ms Innes said.

But she said audiences could expect a few surprises in her interpretation of The Wedding Singer.

“The Broadway musical was based on the movie with all new songs. They’re original songs but with an ’80s flavour. Adding the songs gives us more of an insight into the characters … there’s a nice little shift towards the end to look forward to.”

Lara Calabria, also a teacher at Marian Catholic College, takes the role of Robbie’s love interest Julia, played by Drew Barrymore in the film. Psychology student Helania Beltrame plays Julia’s cousin Holly (Christine Taylor), seasoned performer Valerie O’Meara appears as Robbie’s rapper grandmother Rosie (Ellen Albertini Dow), while David Baxter, James Walsh, Gustavo Magalhaes Tercete and Markala Johnston also secured key roles.

“I’ve been an extra before, but Rosie, while it’s a fairly small role, is my biggest role to date and I’m really excited about it,” Ms O’Meara said.

”She’s sassy, she’s a little bit naughty, she’s fun, but is caring and loving at the same time.”

Wedding Singer cast and crew

The Wedding Singer cast and crew (from left): Valerie O’Meara, Lara Calabria, Jesse Aviu, Helania Beltrame, David Baxter, Romina Tappi, James Walsh and Katherine Innes. Photo: Supplied.

Well-known actor, director and drama educator Romina Tappi, who has recently returned to Griffith after working in Europe, is the production’s assistant director and vocal coach.

“It’s going fabulously, lots of fun, lots of high energy, and I’m really impressed by all the local talent here,” she said.

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Other production team members include Matthew Segrave, Teagan Cirillo, Bonnie Owen, Mahendi Raval, John Matkovic and Mark Macedone, with Leeton locals Robyn Hutchinson and Cynthia Arel pulling together the ’80s-style costumes.

Rehearsals are already underway, with live performances set to kick off in September 2023.

While the cast and crew are now mostly settled, Ms Innes would be happy to see a few more volunteers to help with backstage production. If interested, you can get in touch via email.

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