Robbie Hart High: Lemon Bay High School Soars to Success with The Wedding Singer

Robbie Hart High: Lemon Bay High School Soars to Success with The Wedding Singer

wedding_lindaThe Wedding Singer is proving to be an outstanding vehicle for high school actors, tapping into an authentic voice and youthful energy that other shows don’t always access. Jennifer Kelly, Director of Theatre at Lemon Bay High School in Englewood, Florida shares how The Wedding Singer helped propel her students straight to a top spot on the mainstage at the 2009 International Thespians Festival in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Based in a small town on the Florida coastline, Kelly's high school theatre program is completely self-sufficient, raising all their own money for the productions. This hasn’t stopped them from repeatedly being named the best in the state. Most recently, Lemon Bay High School Theatre's Troupe 257 earned the title of one of the seven best high school theatre programs in the world from the International Thespian Society.

MTI: What drew you to The Wedding Singer? What was it that made you think it would be a success for your cast and crew?

JK: It was the first day back for teachers and I was busy preparing for the school year when my Blackberry vibrated and I received an email from MTI letting me know that the rights to The Wedding Singer had just become available. I made my decision INSTANTLY! I had a vision of the entire school year in a split second and knew it was the PERFECT show for our program. It fit like a glove!

My upcoming seniors had been asking all summer what their fall show was going to be (despite their begging, I don't reveal the show until our huge, celebrated “Unveiling” two weeks before auditions), but more importantly they wanted to know if we were going to compete for a State Mainstage. In the state of Florida, schools can apply for state adjudicators to travel to their school. Usually between six and eight productions are selected every year to perform at the state festival, which is attended by almost 8,000 high school theatre students!

wedding_guysThe Wedding Singer was perfect for our school for many reasons. First, the group of Thespians I had at the time were more "contemporary" musical theatre students. They loved modern music, fast moving story lines, and characters they could relate with. They were also a very comedic bunch. In addition, I was just back from maternity leave and knew I had to "rebuild" my program. I wanted to choose a show that everyone could "relate to" or had "heard of," so we could draw in new and fresh talent…especially guys.

MTI: What was the students' response when they found out that The Wedding Singer was the musical last year?

JK: Thrilled, but curious. They knew very little about the show as a musical, but loved Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, and the original movie. They weren't sure how it would play out on the stage, but they were ready and willing.

MTI: What is it about the show that makes it particularly suited for high school actors?

JK: The obvious reason, of course, is that the show is contemporary and filled with juvenile humor. The music is upbeat and recognizable. They can relate to the modern characters and plot lines. It is a simple show for them to digest.

The more ambiguous reason is that the subtlety of the characters and the situational comedy makes the show perfect for teenagers. Teenagers naturally love the drama, the sexiness, and the edginess of the supporting characters - Linda, Holly, Sammi, George, and Glenn - but they fall in love with the lead characters, Julia and Robbie, for their genuine wholesomeness.

wedding_duetAdditionally, teenagers love to recreate an era that they "remember" only through music videos, movies, photos, and stories. The eighties were a unique time and loved best by those who didn't have to actually live through them! They love the music, the hair, the clothes, the shoes, the characters… to them the era is fun and wild.

MTI: Did any new students audition for the show, students who don’t usually come out for musicals?

JK: Yes! We had quite a few new students not only audition but actually make the production cast and crew that we ordinarily would never have worked with! The mainstream name was a huge selling point for us, and, ultimately, it made our production more successful because a show such as The Wedding Singer needs a wide range of personalities to complete the casting…There was something for everyone… we could find a perfect role for each student that ultimately added more color to our show.

MTI: What was the audience/community response to the show?

JK: They couldn't get enough, which was a little surprising! Our community is comprised of a mostly older, retired population, and many of them were not familiar with the more popular Sandler movie. Consequently, we had to rely a little more heavily on our marketing, and hope for positive word of mouth advertising after our production opened. On the other hand, our younger community members were more curious and did come out to see the show because of the title.

wedding_georgeOur gamble paid off and after opening night, we had packed houses every night and ended up doing the show 13 more times throughout the year! People love to laugh! Audiences love to forget their worries and they especially love to "relive" an era! Our costumes, dance styles, and characterizations were spot on, and it kept people coming back for more every night. Even more surprising was the "cult" following our shows generated from non-theatre high school students at our school! Many of them wouldn't stop talking about the show all year. They came back again and again and brought friends. It was unlike anything we had ever experienced in the thirty years at our high school!

Overall, the show was an incredible experience for everyone - cast, crew, the school, the community - and was extremely well-received at both the Florida State Thespian Festival and the International Thespian Festival!

To license The Wedding Singer or for more information, visit The Wedding Singer MTI Show Page. To discuss the show and click with other fans, visit The Wedding Singer’s page on MTI ShowSpace.

To learn more about the amazing things happening at Lemon Bay High School Theatre in Englewood, Florida, visit their webpage: