Jonathan Cabeza used to like “You Spin Me Round,” that quintessentially ’80s jam by quintessentially ’80s English pop band, Dead or Alive.
That is, until he landed the lead role in Pemberton Secondary School’s (PSS) stage adaptation of the Adam Sandler-helmed Hollywood comedy, The Wedding Singer.
“Now that I hear it every day, it gets on my nerves,” says Cabeza with a laugh.
Cabeza is one of a dozen students cast in drama teacher Renata Zablotney’s latest production, which, as she described, tend to skew towards the “unconventional,” at least compared to your standard high-school play. When Cabeza initially learned he would have to belt out several ’80s classics as the titular crooner and failed rock star Robbie Hart, “I literally wanted to drop out,” he says. Fortunately, he warmed up to the role as rehearsals progressed—and discovered a new favourite tune along the way: “Somebody Kill Me Please,” written explicitly for the film, and making up one of its most memorable scenes, as Sandler’s lovelorn protagonist belts out the lyric “Put a bullet in my hea-a-a-a-d” with surprising poignancy.
“‘Somebody Kill Me Please’ is definitely my favourite song to perform out of the whole entire play. I just get to yell,” explains Cabeza.
“He has a career in a punk band after this,” Zablotney chimes in.
Marking the PSS theatre program’s 22nd production (!!) since 2015, The Wedding Singer was adapted for the stage by Zablotney herself, who added a few wink-wink elements for the audience.
“We take as much as we can from the original source material, but we tried to make it a little bit relevant to the cast we have,” she says. “For example, the actor who played Billy Idol is German and so we’ve added new jokes where it’s like, ‘I thought Billy Idol was British!’ and he’s like, ‘That’s a common misconception.’ So we’re just poking fun at a lot of the things that naturally happened in the ’80s and we made a lot of comparisons to how horrible some of the gender roles were in the ’80s versus how they are now.”
Amelia Richards takes on the role of Julia Sullivan, the sweet, kindhearted love interest portrayed in the film version by Drew Barrymore, an actor Richards relates to on a couple of fronts, not least of which is the fact she is one of her mom’s favourite stars. As the story unfolds, we see Julia gradually “learn to stand up for herself but also accept her flaws and be silly and embarrassed,” says Zablotney. It was a lesson Richards had to learn herself while embodying the character.
“I struggled in one scene where I was really uncomfortable but then I pushed past that,” she says. “It makes it more funny when you’re totally comfortable humiliating yourself.”
That didn’t seem to be as much of an issue for Grace Cook, who relished the chance to play Hart’s “crazy ex-girlfriend” Linda, along with three other characters.
“I was always told as a child that I was really dramatic—from many people, my family mostly. Now I get to put that into something I like doing,” she says. “Now instead of crying when I spill my milk, I get to cry in front of a bunch of strangers.”
Cook had added inspiration in taking on the roles. Along with The Wedding Singer being her mom’s favourite movie, Cook’s mother also shares a name with Barrymore’s character, and the memorable “Julia Gulia” line from the 1998 film has been a long-running joke among friends. But the coincidence doesn’t end there: Cook’s dad also shares a name with Julia’s jerky fiancé in the movie, Glen.
“It’s so cool in my first year of theatre to [play a part based] on a movie that I’ve actually seen before and loved,” Cook says. “My mom is going to be so excited and I’m really happy I get to share this with her.”
After two years of intermittent remote learning and pre-taped theatre, getting the chance to perform in front of a live audience again comes as a welcome change of pace for the cast.
“I think my parents were just happy I’m actually doing something and not in my room for 12 hours a day,” Cabeza jokes.
After a last-minute change of venues, tickets are actually sold out for the March 10 and 11 shows at the Pemberton Community Church. However, there are usually a handful of leftover tickets, so anyone interested in attending can email email@example.com to get on the waitlist. The shows start at 7 p.m. and run for approximately 90 minutes.
“I think a lot of people will feel like they’re in some kind of crazy family wedding that just seems maybe a little too familiar for some of the older audience members,” Zablotney adds.