If summer means light-hearted, family fun entertainment, then “My Big Fat OC Wedding,” written and directed by Ken Parks, with music by Parks and Ken Illes, proves that it’s always summer at the All American Melodrama Theater & Music Hall.
The script’s references are homegrown (Who hasn’t mooned the Metrolink in Laguna Beach?). We can relate to its over-the-top characterizations because we live or know people who have lived behind the Orange Curtain. The songs are outrageous (Imagine a chorus that consists of the three freeways that comprise the Orange Crush – 22, 5, and 57). And the pacing – rollicking, honky-tonk - is crazy-good.
The story doesn’t so much describe Romeo and Juliet as it does a cross between the Hatfield/McCoy feud and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” Darren Deed (Matthew Riggle) is over the moon with Mia Lott (Courtney Moon). He’s the son of Holden Deed (Ken Parks), the villainous developer who wants to raze the Lott’s lot for yet another OC mall. She’s the daughter of Lenna (Amber Hubbard) who, being an unlikely snob in curlers, espadrilles, and a robe, despises 949-snobs, the residents of south Orange County. She’s also the niece of multiply married Aunt Lottie (Dawn Stahlak) who spends her days anesthetized in whimsical inebriation. Darren and Mia meet in the breakdown lane of the freeway – he works as an engineer for Cal Trans, she’s on her way to attend to princess work at Medieval Times. They fall in love (she’s dizzy from love and exhaust fumes; he buys her a Kim Kardashian-sized ring), complications threaten to capsize this love boat but – hurray! - love emerges victorious.
Staged like the musical “Grease,” songs seamlessly merge into dialogue. The overture, “Welcome to the OC” magnificently sets the stage. We learn the source of Aunt Lottie’s MNO (“Bad, Bad, Bad Boys). Lenna and Aunt Lottie encourage Mia to lower the standards of her manhunt (“Mr. Right Right Now”). Mia and Darren ecstatically express their newfound romance (“I Just Found Love at the Orange Crush.” And, finally, the rousing finale “Hey A Wedding.”
Though moment-by-moment the production, to our delight, threatens to spin out of control out into Shoreline Village, it holds together because Parks embeds cultural references in the story to lend it relevance and creates characters that may be stereotypes but that nonetheless resonate with quirks and idiosyncrasies that make them thoroughly believable. All this results in an evening that entertains because it integrates humor, wit, and, especially, improvisation, which depends nightly on the audience. Thanks to a gentleman in a Canada t-shirt, opening night was a lulu.
The performances stagger the imagination. Moon’s Mia is not just a Medieval Times princess, she’s an adorable 24/7 one, warbling like Shelley Fabares singing “Johnny Angel” at the prospect of one, true love. Honorable, forthright, and pulverized by his first glimpse of Mia, Riggle’s Darren fits the role of knight in reflective vest to a tee. As an overprotective mother, a lascivious lush, and a dastardly nogoodnik, Hubbard’s Lenna, Stahlak’s Aunt Lottie and Parks’s Holden, respectively, make this the happiest place in the 562.
Performances are 7:30 pm, Fri. & Sat., 4:30 pm Sat., and 7:00 pm Sun. The show runs until July 17. Tickets are $14-18. The Theater is located at 429 Shoreline Village Dr. For more info call 495-5900 or visit www.allamericanmelodrama.com.