Comden and Green’s classic musical “Singin’ in the Rain” directed by Marcos Santana is now showering us with wonderful music and dancing on the Main Stage at Olney Theatre Center. Betty Comden and Adolph Green wrote the book, Arthur Freed wrote the lyrics and the music is by Nacio Herb Brown. Most of the music comes from the late 1920s. However, a few of the songs are credited to Roger Edens and Comden and Green and were written for the movie.
The musical “Singin’ in the Rain” actually started as a movie but was adapted for the stage and opened in London in 1983 and on Broadway in 1985. However, it is the movie that most of us remember with Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor.
This is a joyous production. The dancers never miss a step, the singers are always on key and the orchestra never misses a beat. The story is a typical romantic comedy of the early 1950s. Don Lockwood (Rhett Guter) is a handsome silent movie star who came up as a hoofer in vaudeville with his friend Cosmo Brown (Jacob Scott Tischler). Brown now is the piano player for the silent movies. Lockwood has been romantically linked in the media to his perennial costar Lina Lamont (Farrell Parker). However, it’s 1929, and talkies are now taking over in the industry. The problem is Lina has a voice that sounds like nails on a blackboard. Into this picture comes the young, pretty and talented Kathy Selden (Amanda Castro). There is no need for a spoiler alert if I tell you that Don and Kathy fall in love and Lina’s transition is not very smooth.
This show is not about the plot. The music features one familiar song after another, especially if you are over fifty. From the title song to “Broadway Melody” toes will tap, and it will be hard not to sing along. The three leads do the vocals for almost all of them. The Ensemble adds to the musical scenes with their own pitch-perfect voices and spectacular dancing.
‘Singin’ in the Rain’ will drive away your stormy clouds with sparkling dancing, luminous singing and enough musical merriment to take you through the holidays and into the New Year.
Guter has the brunt of the numbers, and he is totally up to carrying off this part so associated with Kelly. He may even have a better voice, and his dancing is smooth and athletic in the Kelly-mode. Of course, the most memorable number is “Singin’ in the Rain,” and yes, he amazingly dances on stage in the rain.
Castro’s young ingénue has just the right touch of innocence and feistiness. Her voice shows great range whether singing, “You Are My Lucky Star” or the more romantic “Would You?”
Tischler captures the second banana role and is nothing short of terrific in his big number, “Make ‘Em Laugh.” All three are at their best in the upbeat number, “Good Morning” where they tap dance in precision across the stage.
Parker has a difficult assignment as the silent star, Lina Lamont. You not only have to find her self-centered and self-absorbed, but a dumb blond with a voice that will make your hair stand on end. Parker has wonderful comedic timing and gets the most laughs, especially in the scene in Act II where Lina first must deal with microphones during filming. Parker is a brilliant comic actor, and it is not until the end that her musical comedy talents are apparent.
The supporting cast, which includes Chris Genebach as director Roscoe Dexter and Michael Russotto as the studio head R. F. Simpson, all give strong performances. Michael Wood, as the Diction Coach teaching Lockwood how to sound in talkies, is a perfect foil for Guter and Tischler in the song and dance based on the tongue twister “Moses Supposes.” The rest of the talented Ensemble includes Ian Anthony Coleman, Jennifer Flohr, Max P. Fowler, Andre Hinds, Ashleigh King, Allie O’Donnell, Olivia Ashley Reed, Connor James Reilly, Ian Saunders, Louisa Tringali and Shawna Walker.
Santana’s direction is quick paced and that keeps the numbers flowing. Along with Choreographer, Grady McLeod Bowman and Musical Director, Angie Benson, his direction is crisp and the dancing element is properly spotlighted.
Dan Conway scenic design deserves to be noted. We move from the back lots of the movie studio and suddenly find ourselves outside and onstage at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. The set changes glide in and out effortlessly whether we are on Hollywood Boulevard or in front of Kathy’s house. Of particular interest was the art deco office of the head of the studio. It truly reflects the era. Of course, there is that rain scene that ends Act I. It is magical.
Costume Designer, Rosemary Pardee, also captures the time in fashion and creates bright flashy dance costumes like in a Busby Berkley musical. I don’t know who is responsible for the special shoes worn for dancing in the rain, but Guter never slips or loses a step splashing around on stage.
Lighting Designer, Andrew F. Griffin and Sound Designer, Roc Lee, do special effects as well. There are “silent movies” shown starring Lina Lamont and Don Lockwood and simulations of poor-quality early microphones during the filming of the talkie. The audience never realizes how much rehearsing had to happen with the crew to have all these things occur without issues. (I was always taught to admire the crew’s efforts. So, let me take this chance to commend them.)
“Singin’ in the Rain” will drive away your stormy clouds with sparkling dancing, luminous singing and enough musical merriment to take you through the holidays and into the New Year.
Running Time: Two hours with an intermission.
“Singin’ in the Rain” is presently playing at Olney Theatre Center until January 5, 2020. For more information on the production go online. To purchase tickets, go online. For information about Olney Theatre Center and other productions this season go to their website.
Note: There will be a sensory-friendly performance for those on the autism spectrum and their families on Sunday, December 17 at 7:00 pm. Reservations for this must be made by calling the Box Office. There will be a sign-interpreted performance on Thursday, Dec. 5 at 8:00 pm and an Audio-described performance for the blind and visually impaired on Wednesday, December 11 at 8:00 pm. Contact Patron Service Manager, Julie Via at email@example.com.