Marriott Lincolnshire 'Singin' In The Rain' – Storm of Outstanding Talent
Singing in the Rain—Stage is Better
Many older theatre patrons are familiar with the classic 1952 movie of Singin’ in the Rain, produced by MGM and starring Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor. It is homage to old Hollywood when it made its transition from silent to talking films in the late 1920s. Featuring a score by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Singin’ in the Rain dazzles and entertains and, in my opinion, better on the stage than the screen.
Under the exceptional direction of veteran Chicago Director William Brown, Marriott has pulled out all the stops and invested a large amount of money into this spectacle, not only with the design elements but a top-drawer, triple-threat cast of exceptional talent. Brown and Casting Director Geoff Josselson have cast it almost to perfection and assembled a team of powerhouse talent with exceptional Choreography by Tammy Mader and Musical Direction by Ryan T. Nelson.
Cast with Wow! Talent and Charm
In the title role of Don Lockwood, which Kelly made famous, triple threat Danny Gardner wows the audience with some of the best tap dancing I have seen in ages. While not necessarily the physical type as Kelly, he brings magic, charm and possesses a great chemistry with his leading lady Kathy Seldon (the Debbie Reynolds’ role) played beautifully by Mary Michael Patterson (who takes a thankless and thinly sketched role and makes it sparkle). Gardner knocks the signature song of “Singin’ in the Rain” out of the ballpark and stops the show with “Broadway Melody”.
Mary Michael Patterson brings just the right balance of fire and sweetness to Kathy Seldon, not to mention a crystal clear soprano reminiscent of the perfect pitch or Broadway legend Barbara Cook and a tap dancing style that shows such an ease that you believe she was born to be a dancer. She and Danny Gardner have that special chemistry that sells the relationship and makes us care about them being together in the end (the final curtain is touching).
As Don’s sidekick and completing the triumvirate of talent, Richard Riaz Yoder’s Cosmo Brown defies gravity with his dancing ability and makes us forget about Donald O’Connor, especially in the famous number “Make ‘Em Laugh”. He never goes over the top which is a trap inherent in this role and presents this clown with vulnerability and humanity.
Singing in the Rain Best Moments
The best moments in this production are when these three are dancing and singing together; they weave a spell over the audience and you don’t want it to ever end.
But the one who steals the show and brought out a loud roar when she took her curtain call is Alexandra Palkovic as the decibel shattering Lina Lamont, a train wreck of a silent movie star with no talent and a high pitched nasally voice that shatters ear drums. In a role made famous by Jean Hagen, Alexandra, under Brown’s skillful direction, never goes into parody as the bleached blonde, dumber-than-dirt, slept-her-way-to-the-top seductive siren. As the show progresses so does the pitch and volume of her shrieking voice that by the end you want to strangle her. She plays this role magnificently and has the audience on the floor laughing, especially in the dialect coaching scene where she is a tone-deaf Eliza Doolittle. Not in any way demeaning, this wonderful production Palkovic is worth the drive out to Lincolnshire and the ticket price. Yes, she is that good.
Other standouts are Jason Grimm as the stereotyped Hollywood Executive (R.F. Simpson) and Gabriel Ruiz (Roscoe Dexter) as the flamboyant and temperamental movie director.
I remarked to Mary Michael Patterson at the cast party that there is not a single performer in this show that is anything less than superior in dancing and singing; the entire company is completely in sync when they dance. Being a seasoned Director myself I can say this is the sign of a true ensemble and something that rarely happens in the theatre. When it does, as in this production, it is something glorious to behold and cherish. And as of late Marriott’s artistic team seems to be getting it right.
Perfection All Around
The entire design of Singin’ in the Rain is superb, from the silent film sequences (so masterfully carried off), to the rain on the stage (with this being in the round, this is a real feat to pull off). The Set Design of Tom Ryan evokes old Hollywood in a simple, clean and effective manner as does Jesse Klug’s superb Lighting Design. Once again Nancy Missimi’s costumes are dazzling, highly detailed and period perfect.