A happy day singing in the rain; on the ballfield and at the Marriott
In life, there is head-spinning change: The Chicago Cubs win the World Series!
In life, there are immutable constants: The Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire produces "Singin' in the Rain!"
Both of those occasions Wednesday — I experienced one in the afternoon, the other in the evening — involved smiling people dancing in puddles.
In Cleveland, the rain, and subsequent delay, knocked the Indians off their game and did the Cubs a favor.
In Lincolnshire, it looked like they had turned on a few wide-spray shower-heads.
But warm light rain — a comforting reminder, I guess, that the heavens can be trusted provide the sustenance we need — brought forth joy on both occasions.
I've seen "Singin' in the Rain" several times. Audiences always get excited long before the spigot turns. They start to salivate at the first sight of an umbrella.
Although based, of course, on the 1952 MGM movie, the stage version of "Singin' in the Rain" dates only to 1983, when the film was adapted to create a vehicle for the great British hoofer Tommy Steele. As is the case with most of these screen-to-stage retrofits, the score was expanded to include additional songs by a variety of great composers from George and Ira Gershwin to Cole Porter. The subsequent Broadway version was choreographed by Twyla Tharp, no less, and, thanks to its title more than its dramaturgy, the piece has been in the suburban repertory around these parts ever since. The last splash I reviewed was at the Drury Lane Theatre in 2012. In 2003, I saw the late, great Bernie Yvon played the lead role at the Theatre at the Center in Munster.
Director William Brown's production at the Marriott is much better than the clunky 2012 staging in Oakbrook Terrace. Brown, an incurable romantic of the Chicago stage, has given the show the fluidity and lightness of touch it needs. If you recall the film, you remember it's set as the talkies kill off silent movies and follows the travails of the stars Don Lockwood (Danny Gardner) and Lina Lamont (Alexandra Palkovic) as they try to navigate the change alongside Don's sidekick Cosmo Brown (Richard Riaz Yoder). Don is capable of talking and singing — he's a guy, you see — whereas screechy Lina cannot, necessitating that Don replace her with a younger woman, Kathy Selden (Mary Michael Patterson).
The show easily can come off as mean to Lina — it is mean to Lina — which can kill the romantic comedy. Working on the staff design team at this theater, Brown navigates that well, partly because Palkovic is very funny and adds just a touch of the vulnerability that makes you feel guilty for laughing at her demise, and partly because Patterson, who is excellent, holds back enough to have a crucial deniability. There's an edge to Gardner's Lockwood, and I liked that, too.
This is no piece of radical revisionism and, as this title goes, the production is quite modest. But you feel secure in Brown's hands.
And by the way, that famous title number is a reminder that simplicity often serves us well. You have a guy singing in the rain, and he sings about how he is singing in the rain.
It's a bit like "Cubs Win." It works.