People who’ve seen the show at one venue are turning up at the stage door, having seen it again in another.
Comedy veteran Ruth Madoc, who stars as Grandma Rosie, is delighted to report The Wedding Singer has gained huge momentum on its tour – a reflection, she says, of the brilliant way director Nick Winston has captured the sheer joie de vivre of the 1980s.
The show plays Southsea’s Kings Theatre from September 26-30 (tickets 023 9282 8282), a musical based on the hit Adam Sandler film.
It’s 1985. Hair is huge, greed is good and rock star wannabe Robbie Hart is New Jersey's favourite wedding singer. When his own fiancée dumps him at the altar a seriously hacked-off Robbie makes every wedding as disastrous as his own.
Can sweet-natured Julia and her best friend Holly lure Robbie out of the dumpster and back into the limelight? Or is he going to see her head off down the aisle with Wall Street bad boy Glen.
Only Ruth – as Grandma Rosie – seems to be able to see that Robbie and Julia are the couple that are meant to be.
“It’s great,” says Ruth. “We have been getting standing ovations. I think the show just really captures something of the 1980s. It was a great decade. I think globally it was a happy time for the world because finances were going well. We had gone through an awful lot in the 1970s with the three-day week and so on, but then, whatever anyone thought of the Conservative government, people seemed to have money in the 1980s and it just seemed to be a fillip for everyone and things started to take off.”
As indeed they did for Ruth during the 1980s. It was a decade of massive success for the show which made her the very last thing she expected to be: a household name.
The pilot for Hi-De-Hi! was in 1979, and the series began in 1980, running through until January 1988. Set between 1959 and the early 1960s in Maplins, a fictional holiday camp, the show was written by Jimmy Perry and David Croft, who also wrote Dad's Army and It Ain't Half Hot Mum.
“Jimmy and David were hoping for the hattrick with Hi-de-Hi – and they got it! And it was one of those times when everything came together. I didn’t think I would ever become a household name. It just wasn’t in my remit. I would never have said it was going to be my destiny. I was always a good jobbing actor and I had a good reputation for delivering the goods… and I suppose I would have just carried on like that.”
But the timing was right, particularly for the show itself: “It captured a period of history brilliantly because it was their (David and Jimmy’s) period of history. I don’t think Hi-de-Hi would work now. The general population now like comedy which is much more cynical. There is a lot of cynicism in comedy now, and expletive words are the norm. Hi-de-Hi wasn’t like that. It wouldn’t go do well if it was remade. But also people don’t now have the holiday camps. They have the holiday centres instead. But all the grans and grandads, all the mums and dads watching Hi-de-Hi, they would all have known what the holiday camps were and what they were like… It meant something to them.”
Looking back, as Ruth says, she had done an awful lot before Hi-de-Hi came along: “And I think that helped. You knew how to cope with success or how not to cope with success, plus we didn’t have all this celebrity nonsense that we have got now.”
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