Cary Wiger & Taylor Thomas in Father of the Bride. Photo: DDP

Father of The Bride

By Caroline Francke
Based on the Novel by Edward Streeter, Illustrated by Gluyas Williams
Directed by Jim Hesselman

A review by Craig Nolan Highley

Entire contents are copyright © 2023, by Craig Nolan Highley. All rights reserved.

Depending on your age, the title Father of The Bride may conjure different images. The current Disney+ generation will probably think of the Andy Garcia/Gloria Estefan film. Those a few years older will think of Steve Martin and Diane Keaton. Go back a few generations and you get a movie with Spencer Tracey and Joan Bennett. But it all started with an illustrated novel that’s become so obscure its Wikipedia page is only one sentence long.

Derby Dinner Playhouse is currently presenting a stage adaptation that harkens all the way back to that novel, bringing a rich period charm to the proceedings that add to its folksy charm. The story involves a Midwestern family in 1955 that suddenly gets the news that daughter Kay (Taylor Thomas) is getting engaged to beau Buckley (Dick Baker) to the utter consternation of her father Stanley (Cary Wiger) and delight of her mother Ellie (Rita Thomas).

Stanley begins to go a bit insane with the mounting costs and pressures of having to pay for an increasingly out-of-control wedding plan. It’s an overheated pressure cooker about to explode, leading to a lot of comedy and of course a happy ending.

It’s all a bit precious, and the gender roles are somewhat dated, but it’s a sweet story well told. 

The cast is certainly up to it; Wiger’s Stanley is the picture of restraint until, well, he isn’t, and Rita Thomas is spot on as the constant situation-diffusing and peace-making Ellie. Taylor Thomas’s Ellie is a strong-willed beauty, standing up for herself every step of the way, and Baker’s Buckley takes his character on a believable journey from selfish to giving in a way that feels very natural.

Jim Hesselman’s direction keeps the action flowing and his actors in character in a way that just works, and Lee Buckholz’s set is period 1950s perfection.

A sweet look back at a simpler time, Father of The Bride is nostalgia at its best, certain to charm the most cynical in all of us.

Featuring Dick Baker, Lincoln Fogarty, Alex Hunt, Lem Jackson, Elizabeth Loos, Asa Milliner, Rita Thomas, Taylor Thomas, Hayley Isabella Warfel, and Cary Wiger.

Father of The Bride

May 17 through June 25, 2023.

Derby Dinner Playhouse
525 Marriott Drive
Clarksville, IN  47129

Craig Nolan Highley has been active in local theatre as an actor, director and producer for more than 14 years. In June 2019 he launched a new company with Jeremy Guiterrez, Theatre Reprise. He has worked with Bunbury Theater, Clarksville Little Theatre, Finnigan Productions, Louisville Repertory Company, Savage Rose Classical Theatre Co., and WhoDunnit Murder Mystery Theatre among others. He has been a member of the Wayward Actors Company since 2006. Craig’s reviews have also appeared in TheatreLouisville and Louisville Mojo.