Herndon is weathering the musical storm of “Singin’ in the Rain,” playing at the NextStop Theatre. It is touted as one of the best film musicals of all time and this production lives up to the legacy with a twist. The play opens with fans of the musical film, “Singin’ in the Rain” gathering at a premiere showing of the film. After the projector goes on the fritz the fans decide to re-create the film as a play and audience members are treated to an interactive vaudevillian and big musical style show that leaves everyone singing a tune and tapping their collective feet.
Evan Hoffman (Director) and his creative team designed a unique, interactive show that follows the basic plotline of the film with some twists and turns that will make you smile, hum along, and laugh. The show’s storyline follows silent movie film stars combatting the inevitable changes in the industry to “talkies” when “The Jazz Singer” (the first talking picture) breaks box office records.
All in all, you will leave smiling, and maybe even dancing your way to your car…even if it’s raining.
Don Lockwood, the leading man, is paired with co-star Lina Lamont, whom he despises, despite their success as silent film stars. The current film, in order to keep up with the industry, needs to change from silent to a talking film. Chaos ensues when Lina, whose voice is like chalk on a blackboard, cannot make the transition to a talking picture. A romantic tryst between Kathy Selden and Don Lockwood is growing in the background and the only solution to the talkie crisis seems to be is to dub Kathy’s melodic voice in for Lina’s. I was none the wiser as Lina lip syncs the storyline and lyrics and the talkie is a roaring success.
In Act One audience members are brought on stage to join in the fun of the opening red-carpet premiere at the world famous Grauman’s Chinese Theater, narrated by Elizabeth Spikes, who does a wonderful job as a 1920’s radio announcer. Wood Van Meter playing the role of Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly’s role) and Robert Mintz, playing Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Conner’s role), show their moxie, comic timing and dancing talent immediately in the first song, “Fit as a Fiddle.” To those who did not see the original film, it may be hard to keep up with the story as they played it fast and furious, jumping from one scene to the next. While the film production was a visual masterpiece with extravagant sets, this show manages to give the illusion of a big, lavish backdrop with minimal or no sets at all…And it all works beautifully.
There is a scene where Don first meets Kathy by jumping into her car and this is done by her in an orchestra seat above the stage holding only a steering wheel. One could almost see the car and hear the road noise as they both pantomime the moving of the vehicle masterfully.
The storyline is clear whether you saw the film or not and it builds on itself with one-liners, side jokes and lots of dancing. There are also ongoing jokes that are subtle and creative as every one of the actors takes turns as the Director by wearing a red beret and being very animated as any director would from the 1920s. Melrose Pyne Anderson, playing Zelda Zanders does a great job playing many different characters and is Melissa McCarthy-eques with her comic timing and facial expressions.
The “Moses” song by Wood and Robert was a tongue-twisting superlative piece with quick wit and dancing to boot. When Suzy, Wood and Robert sing the iconic “Good Morning” song it literally wakes up the show to a fever pitch, and you can almost smell the coffee. This parlays very nicely into the plays namesake song, “Singing in the Rain,” which is done with comic flair as the characters all pour water on Wood with watering cans, sprayers and a hose while he nimbly dances throughout the stage. This adds a rather original take on an image we have seen a million times.
Act II continues to build from the end of Act I. The sets are simple and pure, there is a large wooden chest used as a sound mixer and it is done so well, I would swear there was an actual mixer on it. Carolyn Burke, playing Lina Lamont does a roaring, side-splittingly funny song, “What’s Wrong with You,” which is one of the highlights of the play.
Throughout the show, I was distracted by characters sitting in the audience yelling out or by breaking the fourth wall. This continued as the cast directed the audience to rub their hands together mimicking the sound of rain. Once the audience successfully created rain, the sound effects were piped in for real and water rained down from the top of the backdrop. This was the best scene yet, the musical numbers in the show build on each other and in this one they brought out all the stops. The entire cast joined in on the last song, which is colorful and well-choreographed. They succeeded in a grand illusion of a Busby Berkeley musical.
This show is rollicking fun, snappy dialogue, beautiful voices and first-rate dancing. You will be whisked away for 2 hours to a bygone era where cutting a rug does not involve scissors and the bee’s knees do not involve honey. All in all, you will leave smiling, and maybe even dancing your way to your car…even if it’s raining.
Running Time: Two hours, including one 15-minute intermission.
“Singin’ in the Rain” plays through June 23, 2019, at the NextStop Theatre Company, 269 Sunset Park Drive, Herndon, VA 20170. For tickets, call (703) 481-5930 or go online.