Marriott Theatre makes a splash with ‘Singin’ in the Rain’
It is a fact, universally acknowledged, that the 1952 MGM film “Singin’ in the Rain” might be the most glorious movie musical ever made.
And now that it can easily be screened and re-screened in the comfort of your living room, you might wonder what possible reason there could be for seeing its live incarnation, particularly since the cost and peril involved in creating a downpour in a theater might easily be one challenge too far for most producers.
Yet a stage version came to Broadway for the first time in 1985 and has been performed in many theaters in the years since then. And while the Broadway revival originally planned for this fall by producer Harvey Weinstein has been postponed, the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire is demonstrating the many charms of seeing the story splash its way onto a stage.
Chief among them is the chance to experience some sensational dancing, performed by dancers who do not have the luxury of a retake and hardly even take an extra breath when it’s time to stop tapping and start singing.
On top of everything else, be assured that you will still see the story’s three show-business friends dance over the back of a couch. You will watch as the full cast gathers for a knockout version of “Broadway Melody” (a perfect theatrical rebuke to the Hollywood theme of the show).
And, yes, there is a heavy rainstorm and a fleet song-and-dance man to splash winningly through the title song — that great ode to joy penned by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed.
The Marriott in-the-round edition is a charmer. Director William Brown has taken the Betty Comden-and-Adolph Green screenplay and smartly underplayed some of its frequently belabored examples of how the advent of “talking pictures” left some vocally untrained silent film stars in the dust.
Throughout, choreographer Tammy Mader has made dance (tap, tango, Charleston, romantic ballroom, acrobatic) the production’s unquestionable star attraction. Every big number is a mix of impressive virtuosity and pure pleasure.
“Singin in the Rain” is set in 1920s Hollywood, when silent films suddenly were eclipsed by the advent of synchronized sound. Don Lockwood (Danny Gardner) is the vaudeville song-and-dance man who morphed into a silent film star and has found box-office success in historical romances opposite Lina Lamont (Alexandra Palkovic), a fetching blonde with the voice and diction of a Brooklyn dockworker, with a temper to match.
Though the movie studio promotes the notion that Don and Lina also are a couple off-screen, their relationship is fraught, at best. And when Don “Meets Cute” with the struggling young legit theater actress Kathy Selden (Mary Michael Patterson), sparks fly, even if the road to romance will be rocky.
Adding the poignant undertow here (which might have been played up a bit more), is that Don’s lifelong friend and collaborator, Cosmo Brown (Richard Riaz Yoder), a supremely talented music director and creative force, suppresses his crush on the down-to-earth Kathy even as Don romances her.
When a last-minute effort is needed to turn a dated silent film project into a newfangled “talkie” movie musical, it’s Kathy (as something of a prototype of Marni Nixon) who steps in and saves the day. But she will face the wrath of Lina.
Gardner is no Gene Kelly in the looks department,. But he is a fabulous dancer and an unaffected actor-singer who demonstrates the endurance of an Olympic athlete.
From the moment he teams with Yoder (a wonderfully relaxed performer who also can dance up a storm), you sense there is fun to be had. It all starts with the youthful energy of the two men in “Fit as a Fiddle” before moving on to the incomparable “Moses Supposes” (featuring some of the best lyrics ever). Then, joined by Patterson, there is the high-spirited trio, “Good Mornin.’ ”
Gardner and Patterson also team up sweetly in their romantic scenes.
The fast-paced show opens with a red-carpet walk emceed by a dowager-like gossip columnist (Catherine Smitko) and features the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Duke Ellington and a hilariously frenetic flapper girl (Amanda Tanguay, a great comic dancer). Later, there is a smoldering tango duet for Don and “The Lady in Green,” with dancer Jessica Wolfrum Raun easily raising the temperature.
Ryan T. Nelson’s music direction and the orchestra led by Patti Garwood are, as always, excellent. And Nancy Missimi’s costumes add color and zest. There is no special credit for the waterworks (Thomas M. Ryan designed the set), but suffice to say that everyone ends up singin’ in the rain.