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’80s come alive with ‘The Wedding Singer’ | Lifestyle



Whether you’re ready for a white wedding or think that love stinks, the UTEP Dinner Theatre has just the musical for you in time for the Valentine season.

The theater company will stage a production of the Tony-nominated Broadway musical “The Wedding Singer” – based on the film of the same name starring Adam Sandler as wedding performer Robbie Hart and Drew Barrymore as waitress Julia Sullivan – from Jan. 28 to Feb. 13.

While the beloved 1998 comedy takes place in 1985 and subsequently is, at least in part, propped up by a plethora of pop and rock songs from the ’80s, the musical is driven by its own original compositions by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin.


From left: Bryant Webb (George), John Levick (Robbie Hart), Lauren Peña Urribari (Holly) and Fernando Romero (Sammy) in the UTEP Dinner Theatre’s ‘The Wedding Singer.’

The musical’s numbers are designed to evoke the sound, spirit, and essence of the decade in which it takes place, said director and longtime UTEP Dinner Theatre costume designer Jaime Barba.

“As you’re listening to these original songs, you’re going to feel the ’80s,” Barba said during a recent break in rehearsals. “You’re going to hear melodies, sounds, synthesizers that are ’80s based.”

As is custom for a live production, the musical will be accompanied by a live band led by music director Pat Provencio.


John Levick (Robbie Hart), left, and Derrick Cintron (Glen Guglia)

“That’s what makes a musical a musical,” Barba said. “I tell my students that it’s part of what theater is. The music is live, the singing is live, the performances are live, which creates a sense of energy that the audience feeds off and gives back to the performers and musicians. It’s cyclical.”

Barba, who has worked with the Dinner Theatre since 1992, became the official costume designer in 2006.

Barba has directed one play per year for the last 11 years and designs costumes for the others and has also acted in a few productions, including a noteworthy turn as inspector Javert in the production of “Les Miserables” in 2014.


John Levick as Robbie Hart and Carol Viescas as his grandma Rosie

Barba is also involved in deciding which plays are staged, taking into consideration audience and student desires, as well as his own connection to the material.

In the case of “The Wedding Singer,” the connection is strong.

“I was in high school in the ’80s,” Barba said. “As we go through and rehearse, I relive my youth through nostalgia, and that’s one thing I think the audience loves about it. It’s very nostalgic – the ’80s is very popular.”

In an era of “Stranger Things” mania, multiple “Ghostbusters” revivals, young musicians plundering the drum sounds of Phil Collins and the inexplicable return of acid-wash jeans, Barba’s point is more than made.

“I like to direct like I’m part of the audience,” he said.

“When I direct, I think ‘What’s the audience going to enjoy?’ I told my cast that I like to create pictures on stage, so if everyone stands where they’re supposed to stand, it creates that picture and it makes the audience happy,” Barba said. “I don’t do it for me. I want the show to be good.”

In the west wing of the UTEP Student Union, the sound of hammers and drills ring out as the sets for “The Wedding Singer” are being brought to life by a small army that includes Barba, associate director and prop master Beverly Kerbs-Ward and social media coordinator and cast member Zaid Zavala.

One of the most notable challenges of this production and others at the UTEP Dinner Theatre is that the cast has no understudies, lending a more precarious nature to the musical in case a cast member is indisposed.

“It’s just not something we’ve ever done,” Barba said. “We should use understudies, but at the same time we’ve only had to cancel one performance 13 years ago because one cast member got swine flu.”

Barba said one reason for the lack of understudies in Dinner Theatre productionss is a lack of people auditioning in recent years.

“It used to be that so many people auditioned that we’d be able to have understudies, but that’s not the case anymore for some reason.”

While the majority of the cast are UTEP students, a few are members of the community, with Kerbs-Ward evangelizing the opportunities available for all members of the public.

“Do you sing?” she asks at one point during the interview with El Paso Inc. “We could always use more people to be a part of these productions.”


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