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Singin' in the Rain

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In 1952, Singin' in the Rain made its debut as a film starring the inimitable Gene Kelly. In 1983, using the book by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, the lyrics of Arthur Freed and the music of Nacio Herb Brown, the screenplay was adapted into a stage musical. It was thirty years ago that Singin' in the Rain made its Broadway premier, earning a Tony Award for its leading man, Don Correia. And now the show is being given a homegrown production at Long Beach's acclaimed Musical Theatre West, through July 26.


Ably directed and imaginatively choreographed by Jon Engstrom, with exquisite musical direction and live orchestra conducting by John Glaudini, this show makes no pretense of being anything other than colorful spectacle and sparkling eye candy. But, oh, does it succeed, and exceed, in delivering to us those glittering theatrical elements and in grand abundance.


The plotline takes us back to the silent film era. Talkies have arrived, and the glory days of silent celluloid stories are numbered. This is where screen idol, Don Lockwood (Leigh Wakeford, in the role that Gene Kelly immortalized on film, making the part his own); his talented best buddy, Cosmo Brown (Justin Michael Wilcox, mastering a most demanding role); newbie songstress, Kathy Selden (a vocally pure Natalie MacDonald); and Don’s despised and melodically challenged leading lady, Lina Lamont (Rebecca Ann Johnson,  a comedic revelation here) find their careers, between what was and what’s coming.

And though the plot is paper thin, it is the skilled portrayals of an extraordinary cast of 19 players, an ensemble roughly the size of a military platoon, and the craftsmanship of an army of musicians and designers – with a charming tap-dancing turn by Wyatt Larrabee and Barrett Figueroa as the young Don and Cosmos, respectively – that make this show worth seeing. Michael Anania’s set design is an ingenious and appropriately mutable creation, offering us an exterior replica of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, ornate movie sets, and more. Dan Weingarten’s lighting design is splashy and crucial to the showy proceedings, while Audio Production Geek’s sound design proves indispensible to this musical staging. Further, Karen St. Pierre’s costuming is picture perfect, as are Anthony Gagliardi’s wig designs.

In two acts (the first act is an hour-and-a-half!) over the course of two-and-a-quarter hours, more than a dozen song and dance routines are exuberantly delivered. As Cosmo, Justin Michael Wilcox does a terrific and physically exhausting rendition of "Make ‘Em Laugh," while Wakefield’s Don, Selden’s Kathy and Wilcox’s Cosmo do an outstanding interpretation of "Good Morning." And, as we all necessarily expect for the show's success, Wakefield's elegant assaying to the title tune does not disappoint.

For theatergoers who admire musicals, have fond memories of the 1952 movie masterpiece and/ or simply enjoy a rollicking good time in the theater, Musical Theatre West’s grand production of Singin’ in the Rain is for you.

Singin’ in the Rain continues in Long Beach at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center through July 26. The Carpenter Performing Arts Center is located on the Campus of California State University, Long Beach, at 6200 East Atherton Street. Evening performances are on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Matinees are Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. For reservations, call (562) 856-1999, ext. #4. For online ticketing and further information, visit

*Note: Musical Theatre West assures us that the water used in this show is entirely recycled for reuse on the campus of CSULB



Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”


Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.