Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Wedding Party Rocks

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The Cast left to right
Phumi Mncayi, Dillon Naicker, Mark Richardson, Ann Stradi, Sarah Richard, Gareth Worth, Louise Saint Claire, Neville Thomas, Carly Graeme & Balungile Gumede

The Wedding Party Rocks!

Reviewer – Neal McKenna
Springtime and love is in the air. With love comes marriage and that, of course, entails a wedding, a reception and lots of hoopla. So, if you weren’t on Kate and Will’s guest list earlier this year, you are most cordially invited to the next best wedding of 2012. This is a matrimonial hullabaloo where – for the price of admission – you are guaranteed a seat smack-dab in the middle of all the action.  
This show is definitely interactive and you’ll feel like one of the family from the moment you arrive at Salsa Restaurant in Illovo. As an honoured guest, you’ll be asked whether you’re on the bride’s side or the groom’s side and seated accordingly. Little do you know, you’ve already become part of the show. But never fear it’s always up to you to decide whether or not you’ll dive for the bride’s bouquet, hit the dance floor, flirt with the best man, or simply watch as the wedding from Hell unfolds around you.
The show’s structure follows a ‘typical’ wedding programme – ceremony and reception – as well as the tedious wait for the bride and groom to have photos taken. While all the usual business is taking place, you get to enjoy your meal. Following the appetizers, four dining selections are offered – pan-fried fillet, honey-glazed chicken, king clip and for the vegetarians, stuffed phyllo parcels. To be perfectly candid, the beef, chicken and fish entrees were excellent but the vegetarian meal was a flop – basically being mashed potatoes wrapped in phyllo. My best advice to those of a vegan persuasion is to consider being a carnivore for the night.
All the stock characters are present at this shindig – the groom’s drunken step-mother (Louise Saint Claire), the spotlight-stealing father of the bride (Mark Richardson) and the emotional bride (Sarah Richard) who has a foot-stamping hissy fit just before the ceremony. There’s also a libidinous best man (Dillon Naicker), a total knock-out babe bridesmaid (Balungile Gumede), and the groom (Gareth Worth) who will, no doubt, soon be transformed into a henpecked hubby.
Someone at the head table always has to be a bit addled and in this case, it’s the bride’s mother (Ann Stradi). The befuddled father of the groom (Neville Thomas) also doubles as the Justice of the Peace who performs the wedding ceremony. In all, it’s a mixed bag of two odd families who would truly prefer their children were not about to be joined in what they deem to be ‘unholy wedlock.’
After a dessert of wedding cupcakes, the party really begins to rock. Wedding Party VIPs take to the floor in song and dance. The two mothers (Stradi and Saint Claire) make the Eagles’ “Heartache Tonight” their own while the bride and groom torture Sonny & Cher’s “I Got You Babe.” Their rendition of the song is so bad it’s good. The Best man (Naicker) does an excellent job of “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and the soulful “Rolling in the Deep” by the bridesmaid (Gumede) is truly amazing. The father of Bride (Richardson) does outstanding take-offs of Tom Jones, Roy Orbison and Elvis, doing a medley of “It’s not unusual,” “Pretty Woman,” and “Blue Suede Shoes.”
Costumes are typical wedding fare. The men are dapper in their rented tuxes while the ladies prove to be far more eclectic. The bride’s strapless gown is really quite a nice confection of white organza even though it had to be extended to floor length at a shop in Oriental Plaza. You know, it’s really quite amazing what can be bought in Manhattan for about R400 ($50).
The bridesmaid obviously is recycling her prom dress but hey, it shows off a great pair of gams and the colour is a pretty dusty rose. The groom’s stepmother is divinely tarty in a sheer leopard print top sporting an eye-full of cleavage and a ruffled skirt to complete the ensemble.
And finally, we get to the mother of the bride. Oh dear! Where do we start?  Despite the lady being terribly sweet in a pixilated sort of way, her dress must have been picked up on sale at Pep! It looked like she was wearing a green polyester potato sack cinched at the middle. Believe me, that get-up didn’t do her figure any favours. All of this was topped off with a silly hat that even Princess Beatrice would have said “no” to.
Like any other wedding reception, there is the obligatory chitchat with the bride and groom, polite conversation with strangers at your table, the throwing of the bouquet & garter, and would it be a nuptial party without a conga line snaking out to the parking lot and back? Dance favourites include Grease, The Timewarp; YMCA and Walking on Sunshine. Given enough liquid refreshment, it starts to feel like the real deal.  
Performances by all eight actors are strong as they move from one improv situation to the next with ease. “The show obviously has structure,” says writer-producer, Kelley Thorrington. “All the actors know where the show needs to be as the evening progresses but every performance is different depending on how much the audience participates and what ‘just happens.’ The scenarios tend to evolve on their own so it’s always exciting for everyone involved – kind of like a real wedding.”   
This sort of freeform show really keeps actors on their toes,” agrees director Maralin Vanrenen. “And it keeps me on mine too. We all love the spontaneity. A show like this also travels very well. Everything about it is portable – making ideal it for corporate functions.”
The next performances of The Wedding Party are scheduled for Wednesday & Thursday November 2nd and 3rd. Doors open at 7.30 p.m. and proceedings commence promptly at 8:00 p.m. Admission of R350 per person includes the show, dinner, wedding cake and dancing, making it a great value-for-the-money theatre experience. The show runs approximately two hours and bookings can be made through Computicket.
The Wedding Party is truly a funny and engaging interactive dinner theatre experience. If you’re looking for something different, this is your show.
The Wedding Party is presented at the Salsa Restaurant, 198 Oxford Road, Illovo, Thursday & Friday November 3rd and 4th. The final two performances are scheduled for Wednesday & Thursday, December 7th and 8th. Bookings at Computicket.

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