Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Singing in the Rain

The finale of Davis Musical Theatre Company's production of “Singing in the Rain” — which opens the company's 26th season — is spectacular, with everyone on stage in yellow rain slickers and red umbrellas, tap dancing up a storm to the title song.

It's a sight to behold.

I wish that same energy had been evident through the rest of the show, which dragged on opening night: particularly during Act 1, and perhaps because of the time required for scene changes.

“Singing in the Rain” has an inherent problem, no matter who performs it. When adapting an iconic piece of American film, which almost everyone in the audience undoubtedly has seen many times, it's difficult to erase the memory of the original movie. And what stage show can live up to that 1952 classic, or to the performers with whom those roles are so intimately tied?

The story, set at the end of the silent film era, deals with the turmoil that faced Hollywood when it became clear that “talkies” were here to stay. Many of the top stars in silent films had terrible voices; movies with sound ruined many successful careers.

Don Lockwood (played by Rand Martin) and Lina Lamont (Wendy Young) have been longtime screen idols, but the latter has a classic, shrill “New Joisey” accent; she can't possibly transfer from silents to movies with sound. A chance encounter between Don and wannabe starlet Kathy Selden (Christina Rae) leads to this newcomer providing the voice for Lina, to save the studio from having to shut down production on its newest film.

Merriment and hijinks ensue.

Young gives one of this production's best performances. Lina isn't a sympathetic character and is easy to dislike, and Young does an excellent job of embodying the clueless movie diva, whose skreetchy voice is irritating on the ears, as it should be.

She sings one plaintive song, “What's Wrong With Me?,” and does it very well.

Rae is a lovely Kathy, with a warm voice and a warm demeanor to boot. Martin is OK as Don, although he had problems staying in key several times during the opening night performance.

Matthew Kohrt is fun as Cosmo Brown, Don's sidekick; he's a hoot in the dance number “Make 'em Laugh.” All three — Don, Cosmo and Kathy — are delightful in “Good Morning.”

The supporting cast includes Mary Young as the ubiquitous Dora Bailey, a one-woman National Enquirer; Gil Sebastian as R.F. Simpson, head of Monumental Pictures; and Steve Isaacson as Roscoe Dexter, director of the Lockwood-Lamont movies.

(Sebastian and Isaacson haven't appeared together on stage for many years, and it's fun to see these two local warhorses cavort together again.)

Devin DeGeyter and Jacob Navas, as the younger Don and Cosmo, are quite cute; they do a nice dancing job during their brief appearance.

The choreography is by Ron Cisneros, who never disappoints. Jeanne Henderson's costumes are beautiful, especially the white fringe dresses for four women in the chorus.

The minimal set design is by Isaacson and Mark Deamer. And yes, it does rain on stage.

Three movies are shown during the evening, including a “talking picture demonstration” by local TV celeb Mark S. Allen, and two “typical” films: “The Royal Rascal” and “The Dueling Cavalier.” Both are written and directed by Isaacson, and both are very well done.

DMTC's “Singin' in the Rain” is filled with familiar melodies and characters we've loved for a long time. It's a true “feel good show,” and you're guaranteed to leave the theater with a smile, and the title song still ringing in your ears.

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