REVIEW: Say ‘Yes!’ to the Riotous ‘Father of the Bride’ at Meadow Brook Theatre

Dum-dum-de-dum. Here comes the bride… and her very frazzled father! Holy matrimony turns into a cavalcade of chaos in Father of the Bride running now through February 4, 2024, at Meadow Brook Theatre (MBT) on the campus of Oakland University (OU) in Rochester Hills, Mich.

Before audiences saw Spencer Tracy and Steve Martin lose their minds in their respective film versions, Father of the Bride began as a 1949 novel by Edward Streeter. Since then, it has been brought to life on stage and screen numerous times. Why? Because we all can relate to the insanity that invariably comes with planning a wedding.

L to R: Ben Banks (Brady Jacot), Mrs. Banks (Jennifer Byrne), Tommy Banks (Wyatt Cleaveland), and Stanley Banks (Edward Juvier) In Meadow Brook Theatre’s ‘Father of the Bride.’
Photo courtesy of Sean Carter Photography

The play opens on a tranquil scene inside the home of the affluent Banks family. Their plucky housekeeper Delilah (Stephanie Nichols) scurries about while Mrs. Banks (Jennifer Byrne) fusses over her sons Ben (Brady Jacot in his MBT debut) and Tommy (Wyatt Cleaveland). Yes. Patriarch Stanley Banks (Edward Juvier) is a man who has it all. That is until he receives devastating news: his 21-year-old daughter Kay (Olivia Kiefer in her MBT debut) is in love. To make matters worse, she wants to get married to a fella named Buckley Dunstan (Mason Gaida in his MBT debut). The tagline for the 1991 Father of the Bride movie was: ‘Love is wonderful. Until it happens to your only daughter.’ And this pretty much sums up how poor Stanley Banks feels about the whole situation.

The lovebirds – Buckley Dunstan (Mason Gaida) and Kay Banks (Olivia Kiefer). Photo courtesy of Sean Carter Photography

The idea of a ‘simple’ wedding quickly turns into simply chaos with everything getting blown out of proportion – especially the guest list. One by one, the wedding hysteria consumes everyone in the Banks household, including Mr. Banks’ conscientious secretary Miss Bellamy (Katy Kujala). Stanley is desperate to save money (and his sanity) wherever he can. Case in point, he spends the entirety of the second act in a pair of ill-fitting formal trousers he hasn’t worn in over 20 years. Watching Juvier navigate climbing stairs and sitting on furniture while not trying to split his trousers clear up the back was pure physical comedy gold. If ever there was an award for fabric in a supporting role, those trousers would have won.

Another great scene-stealing moment was the appearance of Mr. Massoula (Tyrick Wiltez-Jones), wedding coordinator extraordinaire for Buckingham Caterers. This character is packed with panache. And while he’s supposed to be helping the Banks save money, the grand ideas he has for their home just might be the final straw that completes Stanley’s mental meltdown and financial ruin. Wiltez-Jones is simply sensational in this role and the audience couldn’t get enough of his performance.  

Mrs. Banks (Jennifer Byrne), Mr. Massoula (Tyrick Wiltez-Jones), and Mr. Banks (Edward Juvier) discuss the wedding vision in ‘Father of the Bride.’ Photo courtesy of Sean Carter Photography

The entire cast is beautifully balanced with fresh faces and veteran talent. Byrne (Moriarty) shines as the poised Mrs. Banks and is the ideal complement to Juvier’s (Writing Kevin Taylor) anxious Mr. Banks. Kujala (Little Shop of Horrors) masterfully makes a meal out of her small role as Mr. Banks’ right-hand woman, while Nichols (Noises Off) offers perfectly timed comic relief as the Banks’ jack-of-all-trade housekeeper, Delilah. Oakland University is also richly represented by current students – Zander Brown (Extra), Wyatt Cleaveland, Tyler Girard (Buzz Taylor), Alexa Huss (Peggy Swift), Brady Jacot, and Annabel Pulman (Extra) along with OU alumni Mason Gaida (B.F.A. Acting ’23) and Olivia Kiefer (B.F.A. Acting ’22).

Miss Bellamy (Katy Kujala) Photo courtesy of Sean Carter Photography

This is truly one of the best and most enjoyable casts I’ve had the pleasure of watching. The pacing is wonderful and there’s never a lull in the action or dialogue. The whole performance was so polished, if I didn’t know it was opening night, I would have assumed they were weeks into their run. Even the curtain call was immensely entertaining. Another aspect I love about this play is that while the setting is in line with the 1950 Spencer Tracy film, the comedic delivery is pure 1991 Steve Martin, which gives the audience the best of both adaptations.

Delilah (Stephanie Nichols) Photo Courtesy of Sean Carter Photography

As I mentioned earlier, there’s no denying that Father of the Bride resonates with audiences. But aside from the humor, what also makes the story relatable is how it sweetly showcases the complexities of a father/daughter relationship. For Stanley, it’s not so much about spending money as it is, saying goodbye to the little girl whose boo-boos he kissed. And for Kay, even though she wants to be seen as her own woman, she is secretly scared of leaving the nest. Juvier and Kiefer do a brilliant job of conveying these tender moments, which makes all the zaniness leading up to the big moment worth it. That and the fact that the next time there’s a wedding, Stanley will be the father of the groom and won’t have to contribute anything other than his son.

Will Kay and Buckley make it to the church on time? Or at all? RSVP to one of the remaining dates to find out! And if you’re someone who believes weddings are a big hassle and prefer eloping, make sure to enter the raffle to win a trip to the self-proclaimed ‘Wedding Capital of the World” – Las Vegas!

Father of the Bride is directed by Travis W. Walter, with scenic design by Kristen Gribbin, costume design by Leslie Littell, lighting design by Phill Hall, and sound design by Mike Duncan. Brittanie Nichole Sicker is the stage manager, and Stacy White is the assistant stage manager.

This play runs around two and a half hours and is shown in its original format which means there are three acts and two 10-minute intermissions.

Tickets range from $37 to $46 and are available by calling the Meadow Brook Theatre box office at 248-377-3300 or going online at www.Ticketmaster.com. Student discounts are available at the box office. Groups of eight or more should call 248-370-3316 for group pricing.

About Sarah Hovis

Freelance wordsmith, arts appreciator, grammar geek, sports spectator, stationery snob, and world traveler, Sarah charts her own course as the owner of saliho creative. She uses her creative mind and engaging dialogue to fearlessly bring the written word to life in print and online… all while keeping a watchful eye out for the next literary adventure. You can reach her at sarah@rochestermedia.com.

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