In Part 2 of a series of interviews with the cast of The Wedding Singer, meet Gabriel T. Potter.
Joel: Please introduce yourself and tell our readers where they may have seen you perform before on our local stages. Where did you get your training?
Gabriel: Hey readers! My name is Gabriel Potter. I was last seen as Kenickie in Rockville Musical Theatre’s Grease, and before that, Thenardier in Kensington Arts Theatre’s Les Miserables. If you’ve been frequenting the Arts Barn for the past few years, you may have seen me as Benjy in My Favorite Year, Seymour in The Little Shop of Horrors, Freddy in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, or Leaf in DTC (all with DTC); or Toad in KAT’s A Year With Frog and Toad…and a handful of others!
I started my training as a youngster making home videos of skits and songs while also tagging along with my mom to her community theater rehearsals. I specifically remember learning choreography to her production of South Pacific when I was 6 years old. At the impressionable age of 14, I saw my mom in a production of Driving Miss Daisy as Daisy. Watching her on stage, making me believe that she actually was someone else – specifically near the end when Daisy is getting older and older – it overwhelmed me with emotion and a desire to make others feel the same way.
As a child, I was trained by Nick and Leslie Patrone at the Olean Theatre Workshop in Upstate NY. By the time I got to college, I decided to tack on a Theater degree to my Computer Science Major. Dr. Ed Simone taught me a lot during those four years and really encouraged me to explore the “guts” of theater. Prior to college, I was trained primarily as a singer – that’s why I gravitated towards musical theater. I acted in plays under Dr. Simone’s direction (like Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses and George Bernard Shaw’s The Devil’s Disciple), and I managed to sneak some musical theater in between, like Joseph, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Bye Bye Birdie (all with Olean Community Theater).
Why did you want to be part of this production?
I have been an Adam Sandler fan since I was a kid. One of my friends showed me his “The Goat” sketch, and I was hooked. Between my sister and I, we had all of his tapes (Yes, TAPES. This was before CD’s).
Sandler’s movie The Wedding Singer came out, once again, when I was at the impressionable age of 14. It was the first movie where I really saw him make an effort as an actor. He created this perfect balance where it was less of Billy Madison’s “shabadoooo” but not too “real” like his later movie Spanglish.
After hearing the new songs that were created for the stage production, I wanted in.
Also, Laurie Newton has choreographed for a handful of shows I have acted in, and I always wanted to work with her as a Director. I got my chance!
Have you ever appeared in a production of The Wedding Singer before and who did you play? What makes this production so special?
Nope! I had only appeared in the movie theater as a spectator back in the 90’s.
The venue is what makes this production so special. The Arts Barn stage is very small and only holds 99 seats. This really amps up the intimacy between the actors and the audience and it works really well with this show.
How would you describe the score that Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin have written?
Score! They took the original movie score that comprised of popular 80’s songs and turned it into a song-driven show. The movie opens with “You Spin Me Round.” Keeping the same feeling, the musical (without violating any copyrights) introduces the setting, Robbie Hart and his band, and keeps the audience bopping in their seats.
Who do you play in The Wedding Singer and how do you relate to your character? Do you share any similar traits? Which character is so much like you and why and how?
I play Robbie Hart. I was born in the 80’s, fell in love with technology, and made that my career. If I was born in the late 60’s/early 70’s, I could totally have seen my career going down the path as a musical entertainer.
In 1988 (I was 4 years old), I grabbed the mic at my Aunt and Uncle’s wedding and belted out a rousing rendition of “Somewhere Out There,” so, technically, I’m a wedding singer too. I’ve sung for a few wedding ceremonies as an adult, and my latest endeavor is a rock cover band “The Tickers”. We take 80’s and 90’s (and today!) songs and “rock-ify” them.
If Robbie was born in the 80’s, he’d probably be in the same boat as me.
Tell me about your big solos and what do we learn about your character as you are singing the songs?
What don’t you learn? The hard part is that I could explain what I’m trying to convey to the audience in each song, but I think you’d be better off just watching the show. It’s not M. Night Shyamalan: The Musical or anything, but just know that you learn a lot about my character.
What did you know about the 80s coming in and what have you learned from doing the show?
I was born in 1984, a year before the show takes place. My older sister, Crystal, was born in 1980, so she helped fill me in on the few 80’s years I missed. Together, we watched MTV, Strawberry Shortcake, Raggedy Ann & Andy – all while drinking Ecto Cooler and playing Hungry Hungry Hippos.
The show didn’t teach me anything new, but it definitely brought back some great nostalgia – in the funniest way that it could. This show balances a driving love story with the humor of the 80’s. Imagine the things you would add to Romeo and Juliet to make it “Robbie-o and Julia”!
What are some of the themes of the show that today’s audiences can relate to?
This show explores the “just friends” cliché – where two characters become such good friends that they don’t notice that they’re actually the right person for each other. Think When Harry Met Sally or – believe it or not – the appropriately-titled movie Just Friends.
What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing DTC’s The Wedding Singer?
I want the audience to actually want to hire me as a wedding singer. I’m serious. As we do more and more gigs, “The Tickers” might end up being big enough to play for some weddings! Check us out at https://www.facebook.com/TheTickers.
On top of that, I really want the audience to have a good time. I’m hoping everyone who survived the 80’s will get great nostalgia from all of the references, maybe shed a few tears – either from the sobby scenes or from laughing so hard.
Meet the Cast of Damascus Theatre Company’s ‘The Wedding Singer’: Part 1: Taylor Campbell.