Yesterday marked the first anniversary of a one-performance-only show and a marriage.
Never heard of it? Our Wedding was easy to miss because it played to only 150 people in one performance last year at the SoHo Playhouse. But unlike Hurry, Harry -- which also opened and closed on October 12, albeit in 1972 -- Our Wedding was recorded. Usually, when a one-performance show gets an album, the creators do it in hopes that someone will hear it, fall in love with it, and want to revive it. But neither I nor Noel Katz, who conceived and wrote Our Wedding, expect that will happen with his show -- at least, not word-for-word the way it was presented in 2003. For when Katz and Joy Dewing (pronounced "Doing") decided to marry, the prospective bridegroom decided to write a musical that would be performed on the day of the wedding. Katz has written the scores for a bunch of musicals, and while none has yet reached Broadway, he does take pride that one of them was "the only show in the 1985-86 season to turn a profit."
While Katz was writing shows, he was looking for love, which he eventually found back in 1997 -- on the Internet. Dewing was an actress who logged on to seek information about such musicals as The Boy Friend, not knowing that she'd indeed find The Boy Friend. Before you could say "Will he like me when we meet?" Noel liked Joy when they met. But Katz had learned from the cast album of Jamaica to "Take It Slow, Joe," and he did -- not proposing until December 2001. After that, Our Wedding took a mere 22 months to be written, cast, directed and produced -- which, as we all know, is pretty fast in these theatrically challenged times. Dewing, who's been Mary Magdalene in two different Jesus Christ Superstars and many a nun in The Sound of Music, was happy to originate a role that she hopes no one else will ever play.
Our Wedding opened with a chorus of five: Best Man (Sandy Schlecter), two Maids of Honor (Keara Rebecca Collier and Lauren Kaye Furjanic), and two bridesmaids (Cristen Leigh Marshall and Shelley Anne Work). To a bright, Jerry Hermanish tune, they asked the musical question, "Why Does It Have to Be a Musical? / Just to be out of the norm? / Why embarrass your mothers / And all of the others / By forcing us all to perform?" But Jillian Katz Pierson, Noel's sister, explained why in "There Ought to Be a Song." Seems that the Katzes were a most musical family. As Jillian sings, "When a tragedy would come our way / We met it with a song." As she later pointed out, "When our mansion had a smoky fire / Then we convened the family choir / Dousing flames by raising voices higher." Noel smartly modulated the music on the word "higher." Jillian later also related a most personal incident: "When a dog knocked out my two front teeth / I thang a thilly song / I was rushed to a dentist, and 'Caps!' said he / Noel cheered me with a rhapsody." Neat rhyme, no? And you should hear Jillian's smash performance of the number.Then Noel made his entrance and sang his opening song, "I Can't Marry You." Shades of Amy in Company? No; those four words were followed by "...in the usual way." After he let his bride-to-be know that he was indeed going through with it, he advised, "Don't toss a bouquet / It leads to spats / And for heaven's sake / Don't take the name Joy Katz." After he took his bow, Bea Dewing (Joy's mother) and Carol Katz (Noel's mom) sang of their sudden status as mothers-in-law. Bea asked, "How do I firmly stand my ground? / How do I throw my weight around?" Carol answered, "When they're cooking, always point out what's unhealthy / And at a picnic, cry 'You're ruining the slaw!' / And to make sure they stay alive / Give them directions while they drive / To be the mother of all mothers-in-law."
Katz then made a great demand of Collier, Furjanic, Marshall, and Work: He wrote for them a madrigal that they'd have to do as a round. (I hope he isn't as demanding of his wife!) But Work interrupted the song and criticized the rarefied musical choice that Katz had made. Instead, she sang a pop-rock rouser, "The Wedding Night," which used no euphemisms. She sang, "I know you'll be like acrobats / And find the meaning of 'Dewing Katz' / On your wedding night. / Run your fingers through his hair." To which Marshall responded, "He doesn't have much on top" -- only to have Work counter, "No, I meant down there." My reaction to "The Wedding Night" was exactly what Charles Grodin said in Ishtar to his confederates when they viewed Hoffman and Beatty's act: "That's the single."
The ladies' insouciance came to end when The Right Reverend Matthew Simms Hamel took the stage. He didn't turn out to be a Dr. Brock-like sobersides but, rather, a pretty cool Baptist; he led a choir of 10 in "Say Amen!" ("They're a blessed couple / I declare / Dontcha all think they / Stand a prayer?") It's a number that, midway through, the audience greeted with a clapping-in-rhythm response. Alas, from the CD, I can't tell if The Right Reverend encouraged them to join in by stretching out his arms as far as they'd go and clapping while vigorously nodding his head, the way some inferior entertainers do when they need applause from an audience. But considering how felicitous the tune is, I'd say that the crowd clapped in rhythm simply because they were enjoying the song. Then we heard, "This Bud is for you." Lest you assume that the booze-filled reception had already started, the line was sung by Taite Rose Pierson, the four-year-old flower girl. In this 46-minute musical, her 46-second song was a definite highlight, and it gave the bridesmaids a tough act to follow as they performed the processional.That's when the bride and groom took the stage together to sing "How Could They Have Missed?", in which they each ruminated on the other's previous dates. Noel wondered, "How could they have missed your beauty?" while Joy pondered, "How could they have missed your humor?" This was followed by The Right Reverend asking in recitative, "If there's anybody here who knows any reason why these two should not be married, you'd better have a damn good song ready." No one did, so Noel and Joy said their "I do's" as readily as Michael and Agnes in the 1966 Jones-Schmidt musical. But unlike those two, who foolishly believed that "You can throw away your ev'ry care and doubt / 'Cause that's what married life is all about," Noel's song acknowledged, "And during times of troubles / And there will be troubles / We won't give up" -- all set to a lovely waltz.
After they kissed, they threw musical comedy wisdom to the wind by following that ballad with another one. (Hey, Funny Girl got away with it, so why shouldn't Our Wedding?) But a waltz is a must for a first dance, and all went well until Noel 'fessed up mid-song that he didn't know how to dance. That's when his father, Arthur Joel Katz, came in and coached, "It may seem impossible to do it with grace / You may feel impossibly out-of-place / But wipe that embarrassment off your face" -- for indeed, Noel was in the midst of many well-wishers who didn't care if he wasn't ready for Tulsa's Astaire-bit.
Given that Noel's father had a song, it was only fair that Joy's father get his moment at the SoHo Playhouse. To a tune that reeked of baby-boomer rock 'n' roll, Randy Dewing sang, "This Is My Night to Howl," though he took the time to warn his brand-new son-in-law, "But if you don't treat her right / You'll not only know my bark, but bite." Then came the song by the Best Man, the aforementioned Sandy Schlecter. What you may not have inferred is that Sandy is actually a woman, but she's so dear to Noel that he non-traditionally cast her in the role. Her song, "We'll Be There," was a mini-history of their lives together. "When you finally lost your virginity, I was there," she sang, before clarifying, "Well, I don't exactly mean I was there, but you told me about it." And after Joy summed up the event by singing "This Man Loves Me" -- which concluded with the most apt, "You can hear it in his music" -- Schlecter offered a reprise of "We Were There," with the 150 wedding guests joining her on the line, "Until the end of time, we'll be there." And you can be, too, via compact disc, if you visit the website www.WeddingMusical.com.
[To contact Peter Filichia directly, e-mail him at [email protected]]