Singin' in the Rain

Ben Miles Reviews - Theater
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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 www.musical.org.

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