Saturday, September 25, 2021

Singin' in the Rain


With no theatrical productions at all in 2020, it appears that Woodland Opera House actors spent the pandemic year studying and improving their dancing.  The dancing and choreography (by Darryl Strohl-DeHerrera) for their production of “Singing in the Rain,” directed by Rodger McDonald, which opened on Friday, were the highlights of the show.

While the Woodland Opera House is back to 100% capacity, currently the Yolo County Health Department requires face coverings for all of patrons regardless of vaccination status. And for an added layer of protection, Opera House staff will take the temperature of all theatre attendees upon their entry. Masks and hand sanitizer are available to anyone in attendance at each theatre event.  The actors on stage also wear clear plastic masks, which don’t hamper their speaking or singing but do cut down on the romantic scenes (hugging instead of kissing!)

This is a lovely production, with no real “set” per se, but beautiful projections in the background. Written originally as a film, not a stage show, “Singin’ in the Rain” is the stage version of the 1952 movie by Comden and Green, with Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds.

It is the story of the end of silent movies and the start of the talkies. After the success of “The Jazz Singer,” the money-hungry head of the studio, R.F. Simpson (Rodger McDonald), decides that his next silent movie, “The Dueling Cavalier,” should be converted into a musical talkie, titled “The Dancing Cavalier,” a vehicle for his two biggest names, Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont, the “Brangelina” of their day.

Erik Catalan is a solid Lockwood with many musical numbers, the best of which is the title song, in which he sings while “rain” falls all across the stage, filling the stage with puddles, but not getting any clothes wet. It’s a great effect by Mike Cartwright,.

Patricia Glass is perfect as Lina, the obnoxious star with a voice like fingernails on a blackboard. She’s the perfect silent film star–can’t sing, can’t dance, act. She is convinced that there is a romance between her and Lockwood, who, in reality, can’t stand her.  Charlotte French is very funny as the vocal coach trying to teach her how to speak correctly (“I can’t stand him!”).

In this show, Lina has her own solo, “What’s Wrong with Me,” which is not in the film.  Glass does a great job of singing it badly!

The very polished Kirsten Myers is Kathy Selden, the actress wannabe whom Lockwood convinces to become Lina’s voice when it is apparent that there is no way Lina is going to make it in talkies. Her trio with Don and Cosmo, “Good Morning” is great fun.

Lockwood’s old vaudeville partner and perfect fall guy, Cosmo Brown is wonderfully played by Eddie Voyce, whose “Make ’Em Laugh” is one of the most fun numbers of the night. It’s a complex piece that he performs well.

There is good support from the rest of the cast, like Gil Sebastian as Roscoe Dexter, the director of Don and Lina’s films, Katherine Fio as Lina’s friend Zelda, and Barbara Goodman as gossip columnist Dora Bailey.

The action is not always as crisp as it might be, but still such a fun evening, and a great way to bring live performances back to the theater.

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