Actress gets her dream `Wedding'

September 06, 2007|By Mary Carole McCauley | Mary Carole McCauley,Sun theater critic

Erin Elizabeth Coors is so busy rehearsing for her big role in The Wedding Singer that she doesn't have time to arrange her own trip to the altar.

"Being on the road during a national tour doesn't lend itself to planning a big wedding," she says. "My fiance and I have been dating for three years, and engaged for the past 18 months. My agent keeps saying: `Just get married on the set. We'll all fly out for it.'

"But that wouldn't be the wedding of my dreams. I don't want to get married in the wedding gown from the 1980s that I wear in the show."

Luckily, Coors' husband-to-be, James Stephenson, a sound designer based in New York, is a patient man.

Besides, he knows how important this tour is to his fiancee. Not every 25-year-old actress/singer/dancer who graduated from college just two years ago has landed starring roles in two national tours.

In 2006, Coors became the first actress to play that living doll, Barbie, in a national touring production. She bested more than 200 actresses who also auditioned for the title role in Barbie! Live in Fairytopia.

Then came The Wedding Singer, which polkas into the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center on Tuesday for a two-week run. For the next 10 months, Coors will portray the big-hearted, klutzy waitress Julia -- the role originated by Drew Barrymore in the 1998 film that also starred Adam Sandler.

The Wedding Singer, perhaps the best-known of the 1980s nostalgia films, takes aim at the decade of greed by focusing on a pair of star-crossed lovers.

Robbie Hart lives in his grandmother's basement in New Jersey and sings in a wedding band. On the day he is to be married, his fiancee dumps him because of his lack of financial success.

His friend Julia Sullivan is a waitress who loses sight of what matters most when she becomes engaged to a sleazy Wall Street stockbroker.

The movie is replete with big 'dos, stand-up collars, mullets and references to junk bonds and manual typewriters. But fans of the film shouldn't expect the stage version to be an, err, carbon copy.

The musical contains just two songs from the movie, both co-written by Sandler and screenwriter Tim Herlihy -- "Somebody Kill Me" and "Grow Old With You." The stage version of The Wedding Singer was a huge hit and picked up a slew of honors.

"This is such a beautiful show, and I wanted to play Julia so badly," Coors says. "The auditioning process took about three months. I've never worked so hard to get a role in my life. When I won the part, I think my fiance was even more excited than I was, even though it meant delaying our own wedding even longer."

The oldest of seven children, Coors grew up in Cincinnati, the daughter of a physician and a stay-at-home mom. She began studying ballet and voice as a young girl. Though her brothers and sisters gravitated toward sports, Coors always knew she wanted to perform.

"My parents were incredibly supportive," she says.

"It's actually a little scary to have your father urging you to be an actress. When I was going into college, I asked him if I should study to be a teacher, and he said, `No, no, life is too short. Do what you love.' "

That's one reason why she is dedicating her performance in The Wedding Singer to her parents.

"Their marriage has been a great example of mutual honesty and respect," she says. "I learned so many things from them that I use in the show. For example, there's one scene in which Robbie and Julia have a huge fight. From watching my parents, I know that when two people really love each other, they might fight sometimes, but they'll always come back together."

While attending Kent State University, she worked in summer stock at the Barn Theatre in Augusta, Mich. It was there that she met Stephenson. (Coors graduated from Kent in 2005 with a bachelor's degree in musical theater.)

"We knew each other for a few years before we started dating," she says. "He was my best friend in the whole world, just like Robbie and Julia."

Coors pauses a moment, and then concludes: "There really are a lot of parallels."

Including, perhaps, a happily ever-after, fairy-tale kind of ending for her own love story.

mary.mccauley@baltsun.com

"The Wedding Singer" is at the Hippodrome Theatre at the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center, 12 N. Eutaw St., Tuesday through Sept. 23. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Saturdays, and 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $25-$70 at 410-547-SEAT or go to broadwayacrossamerica.com.

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