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Material Boy 

by MICHAEL BOWEN & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & he touring musical version of the Adam Sandler-Drew Barrymore movie, The Wedding Singer (at the INB Center, Nov. 27-Dec. 2) centers on a love quadrangle set in New Jersey in 1985. Linda dumps Robbie at the altar because he's merely singing at wedding receptions instead of being a rock star. Depressed, Robbie acts out by ruining other people's weddings -- where he meets a waitress named Julia. But she's engaged to a rich stockbroker named Glen. Can you guess whether Robbie and Julia will find true love after singing the musical's '80s-style lyrics (by Chad Beguelin) and dancing to the show's '80s-style music (by Matthew Sklar)?





Speaking by phone from Louisville, Ky., the Wedding Singer himself, Merritt David Janes, answered all our Duran Duran-related, really-gotta-know questions.





Could your mullet beat up Adam Sandler's mullet?


My mullet is from Vermont and his is from New Hampshire. So it'd be an all-New England battle.





You were born in 1981. What could you possibly remember about the '80s?


Well, we researched the era. I listened to a lot of Eddie Van Halen, a lot of Def Leppard, Iron Maiden.





Out of everything you learned about '80s pop culture, what seems most ridiculous?


A lot of the leg warmers and glitter-rock stuff. You look at that and you think, "What the hell were they thinking?!" A lot of those band guys in the '80s -- their hair got so long, it had this kind of weird feminine quality. Yeah, judging from their hair, '80s rockers were all trying to look like the psycho killer in The Silence of the Lambs.





In rehearsal, did the choreographer ever say, "This is exactly how they did it in the '80s"?


Well, it's all '80s moves, the entire show. But the most blatant is in the "Thriller" sequence, when we do the claws and the zombie moves. There are little references to the '80s thrown in all through. So if you lived through the '80s and loved the '80s -- or even if you hated the '80s -- you're going to chuckle all the way through.





And so Adam Sandler riffing on Madonna ("We live in a material world, and I am a material girl, or boy")....


Yeah, that's still in the show.





As Rosie the grandmother, Penny Larsen does a dance routine. What are the hip-hop moves that she can bust and you can't?


Oh god, those belly flops. She's playing a woman in her 70s, and she does belly rolls on the floor. And I don't wanna give it away, but you're gonna laugh when you see her breakdance moves.





But you get to live every guy's fantasy ...


Yeah, I'm livin' the rock star moment. When I'm up there with my guitar, I'm trying to channel two famous movies: Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future -- the time he's onstage in 1955 and he's playing an '80s guitar solo -- and the second one I use is when Bill and Ted have their Excellent Adventure. Because they idolized Van Halen and Iron Maiden and those guys.





Do you flaunt that guitar like a phallic object?


A lot of those '80s rock guys used their guitars in that way. But we're a PG-13 show. So my relationship with my guitar is mostly a musical one.





Is it really true that when you tried out for Wedding Singer, you were just trying to get some experience in auditioning?


Yeah.





And you got the part -- a real fairy-tale ending for you. Do you draw on that in the finale?


After 83 shows, to be a real performer, you have to make it fresh every night, 'cause it's always the first night for the audience.





We're like virgins, touched for the very first time.


Exactly. And so as an actor, whenever you play a fairy tale ending, sure, I use some of the satisfaction I got from getting this role.





Has being in the show changed your experience of real-life weddings?


Several of my friends are getting married in the next few months, and I'll be going. Let's just say doing this show has enlarged my already huge feelings of anxiety -- as in, "I hope to hell she says yes." You know, when they get to the part about, "Does anyone know any reason this couple should not be together?" -- you just hope the drunken uncle shuts up. Because there are so many chances for a wedding to go wrong. And even if the wedding goes off without a hitch -- well, you know, then you gotta stay married.





The Wedding Singer will scream power-chords of love at the INB Center on Tuesday-Thursday, Nov. 27-29, at 7:30 pm; Friday, Nov. 30, at 8 pm; Saturday, Dec. 1, at 2 pm and 8 pm; and Sunday, Dec. 2, at 1 pm and 6:30 pm. Tickets: $30-$60. Visit www.ticketswest.com or call 325-SEAT.

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