You would have to be severely media-challenged or a native of another planet to have not heard of the movie that is generally considered the best movie musical ever and consistently ranks in the top ten of movies overall. This cinematic treasure, “Singin’ In The Rain,” has been brought to life by The Arlington Players, who have taken on an enormous challenge with talent, innovation, and technology.
…talent, innovation, and technology…gives us a fine feel for the classic numbers.
The reimagining of this show onstage was brought to Broadway in the mid-1980s and had a respectable run of a year. (Broadway prefers original material.) The lyrics and score faithfully follow the movie with only a few tweaks. The movie version, with producer/actor Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds, was lightly regarded initially, but gained stature, similar to “It’s A Wonderful Life.” The production numbers were unparalleled for its day and the individual dance routines, were, to use a technical term, simply gobsmack.
Just to understand the intensive labor put forth to produce these iconic numbers, it is said that the ending sofa scene in “Good Mornin’” was shot 40 times before it was to Kelly’s liking. Hollywood lore has it that Debbie Reynolds, an untrained dancer, rehearsed for more than two weeks on the very same song and dance number, with sore and bloodied feet, smiling the whole time. Of course, the cast of this Arlington Players’ production has only one shot at it and gives a fine feel for the classic numbers.
The plot line, for musicals of the era, is surprisingly detailed and complex. Set during the turbulent period when Hollywood was converting from silent films to talkies, we meet Don Lockwood (the multi-talented Tim Lewis), a popular silent film star at the end of the era. Don is always paired with costar Lina Lamont (the hilarious Stacey Claytor) who he barely tolerates. Made up film studio Monumental Pictures links them romantically to help sales.
Throw in the boy-meets-girl aspect as the jaded Lockwood meets young ingénue, Kathy Seldon (the sweet and innocent Rachael Fine). Her inspiration helps them, along with comic sidekick Cosmo (the energetic Preston Meche) to save their latest film and turn it into a talkie, replete with hijinks, setbacks, and the treachery of the dreaded Lina. Did I mention hilarity ensues?
All the standard classics are here, and instead of being presented in an eye-popping way, are heartfelt. Get ready for “Good Mornin.” “All I Do is Dream of You,” “Moses Supposes,” “Make ‘Em Laugh,” and of course, “Singin’ In The Rain.”
Lewis, as Lockwood, shows his talent in many areas, though his dance moves and tap stand out. As wingman Cosmo, Meche gives a likeable energetic performance, if a little too slapstick. Rachel Fine’s Kathy, played with believable innocence and exuberance, has nice vocal tone and meshed well in the cast and with Lewis in their “together” scenes.
Stacey Claytor as the unnerving Lina was a bombshell revelation, taking Lamont’s unpalatable accent and affectations to an over-the-top hilarity. Her solo song, “What’s Wrong With Me?” is a real joy. It’s exceptionally hard for anyone to sing so well with a nails on chalkboard voice. Brava!
The main draw here, however, is the spectacular set-piece choreography. Several large production numbers involved the cast dancing and tapping away in formation, especially in “You Stepped Out Of a Dream” and the intricate “Broadway Melody” filled with women in primary colors spinning onstage as in a dream.
In this case, every ensemble player, all who were hoofing it onstage, needs to be called out for an in print encore, especially for “Broadway Melody”—Erica Aquilina, Brittany Bolick, Emily Carbone, Sean Cator, Courtney DeYoung, Kelly Dobkins, Emily Dwornik, Emily Gjovik, Jonathan Grygiel, Jeffrey Hollands, Cole Jaconski, Daniel Kingsley, Jake Lefler, Mario Leone, Drew Looney, Luke Martin, Carmen McClaskey, Collen Prior, Jackie Rogers, Ashley Sese, Will Shingler, Jessi Shull, Fosse Thornton, and Jeremy Venook.
Veteran TAP Director/Choreographer John Monnett has, in his final show, put a theatrical cherry on top. As in “The Blues Brothers,” he has brought the old band together, and they work well. (When a show has an Intimacy Choreographer, you know they care about details!) Longtime Music Director Blakeman Brophy leads a 21-piece orchestra sequestered in the pit, providing a full resonant sound.
Technical Director Christopher Smith and Lighting Designers Kimberly Crago and Jeff Auerbach are to be commended for the innovative use of backlighting and use of scrim to project different scenes and times of day, including the illusion of rain coming down in the classic scene. Lewis twirls in a low flat set with water gently coming from the platform, an effective slight-of-hand.
The only problem? Picking a song to hum on the way out!
Running time: Two hours 30 minutes with one intermission.
“Singin’ In The Rain” runs through April 8, 2023 presented by The Arlington Player’s at the Jefferson Theatre, 125 S Old Glebe Rd, Arlington, VA 22204. For more information or tickets to this or upcoming shows, call (703) 549-1063 or go online.