“FATHER OF THE BRIDE,” Hale Centre Theatre, West Valley City, through May 26, $24-$15, 801-984-9000 or www.halecentretheatre.org
WEST VALLEY CITY — For the bride and groom, it is the happiest day of their lives. But for Stanley Banks, the days leading up to his daughter’s wedding are far from enjoyable — in fact, nearly intolerable.
Although it was first pledged that the guest count would not exceed 50, the number of invitations quickly spirals to 300. But the Banks have forgotten that the groom’s family will be inviting guests, too.
The ever-increasing guest list is just one concern of the pocketbook-watching Mr. Banks in the pleasant comedy “Father of the Bride” at Hale Centre Theatre. The exasperated father sees the idea of a spur-of-the-moment drive to an intimate, ivy-covered country chapel explode into a huge formal social event wedding with all the customary trimmings.
As written, the pacing of “Father of the Bride” is designed to grow more frenetic as Mr. Banks’ frustrations increase, but director John Adams propels the action from the onset with little pause, which takes away some of the tender moments. With exaggerated comedy at full speed, the play’s conclusion is forced and less satisfying.
It was also a misstep to update the play by 10 years. Parent-child dynamics were altered between the eras of “Father Knows Best” and “Gigdet,” making many conversations in "Father of the Bride" wrong for the ’60s. Also, parents in the ’50s had a clear recollection of the Depression, so now Mr. Banks is more of a tightwad than thrifty.
But there are still chuckles galore to entertain Hale Centre Theatre audiences, which selected that “Father of the Bride” be restaged by overwhelming numbers. Because the show is an “audience favorite,” it is hoped that this dusted-off play can match the financial and popular success of the company’s recent “Zorro the Musical."
The play is set in the overstuffed living and dinning rooms of the Banks family home, and the director has blocked the actors to make good use of the in-the-round stage.
As the bride- and groom-to-be, Madeline Weinberger and Derek Smith are fine. They are clearly in love and display all the nervousness and excitement of an engaged couple. Weinberger’s Kay Banks, often called “Kitty” and “Darling” by her father, is beautiful and delightful to watch onstage. Smith is earnest and touching in his brief scenes as Kay’s fiancÉ, Buckley Dunstan.
With Mr. Banks famously played on film by Spencer Tracy and Steve Martin, polar opposite actors, Mark Knowles aims to walk a fine line between the two portrayals, veering closer to manic intensity. Rebecca Nibley is warm and pacifying as the matriarch.
Other memorable players are CJ Strong as Ben Banks and Camrey Bagley as his pigtailed girlfriend, Peggy Swift. McArthur Cottam gets the evening’s first laugh as the pipsqueak brother, Tommy Banks.
Costuming nicely defines the period, with sweater cardigans for the men. Dainty white gloves are importantly used by the women, but, with the public fascination for Jackie Kennedy’s pillbox hat continuing the millinery tradition, where are the hats?
Being ushered down the theater aisles will promise a pleasant evening as Kay and Buckley prepare to walk down the chapel aisle in “Father of the Bride,” and Hale Centre Theatre cordially extends an invitation.