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Singin’ In The Rain

Last Wednesday night, The Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire opened its latest production, “Singin’ In The Rain”, the stage musical that came from the M-G-M film of the same name. Since last Wednesday night was “game 7” of the 2016 World Series, featuring MY Chicago Cubs, I missed the opening. This afternoon, Jane and I did our “make-up” attending the 4:30 p.m. afternoon show. Audiences are different at an opening. Opening night is filled with the press people, many actors who have graced the stage at Marriott, and other personalities from radio, television and well- known dignitaries. On November 5th, a great number of season subscribers ( many who have done so for twenty or more years), so while the audience is a bit older and probably less critical, they are evidently people who know and enjoy theater.

That being said, I must tell you that this IS an enjoyable theatrical experience. In particular, if you enjoy lots of tap dancing numbers. Directed by William Brown, who is far better doing plays on regular stages than working in the arena or round stage with very little set. Despite his lack of arena expertise, the efficient choreography by Tammy Mader (if you saw her “42nd Street”, you will LOVE this ) truly makes this show take life. This is one of the old, hokey, Hollywood stories. It is the 1920’s, Hollywood’s “Golden Era” and movie stars are beloved. It is also a time when “Talkies” are about to come into being and in our story (book by Betty Comden and Adolph Green and songs by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed) our female movie idol, Lina Lamont (delightfully played by Alexandra Palkovic) has a voice that is grating and comical. Her co-star Don Lockwood (deftly handled by Danny Gardner) meets a young actress by chance, one Kathy Selden ( Mary Michael Patterson will wow you with her vocal and dancing skills as well as her ability to develop a character who appears more real than most). Love blooms for these two, but doesn’t happen as quickly as you might like or in the way you might expect.

This brilliant production is pure escapism for almost 2 hours and 30 minutes including a longer intermission period as the last number in the first act is the title song, “Singin’ In The Rain” where the Marriott has a sprinkler system produce an actual rainfall for Gardner to dance in and through. In the movie, this role was played by Gene Kelly, who also did the choreography. Mader has designed a new look and Gardner pulls it off to perfection. While the first act has some wonderful old tunes in it, “Make Em’ Laugh” (a solid job by Richard Riaz Yoder as Cosmo, who is quite the tap dancer himself), “You Stepped Out Of A Dream”, “You Were Meant For Me” and “You Are My Lucky Star”.

The second act is far more entertaining as they must figure out a way to do talkies with a star who cannot speak, so they do the first “dubbing”. Kathy, who has a great voice and can act, agrees to do the voice-over for Lina and the fun begins. The opening of Act Two has the brilliant “Good Mornin” where Don, Kathy and Cosmo dance their ideas into our hearts and minds. The Broadway Melody’ number is a true show-stopper and worth the price of a ticket alone, and since the second act is shorter than the first , as was the custom back in the good old days of the Broadway Musical, it moves faster and keeps us from dozing off. I must admit that act one had more than a few patrons taking their afternoon nap until the “Singin’ In The Rain” number woke them up (or was it just time for the “potty break”-after all there were a lot of seniors in the audience).

Part of what makes a musical like this truly work is the strength of the ensemble. the chorus members who take on the smaller roles and fit in for the dance and song numbers. Marriott has always found great people and once again, they have assembled just the right people to make this show work. Catherine Smitko, Amanda Tanguay, Jessica Wolfram Raun, Jason Grimm, Gabriel Ruiz, Jackson Evans, Brandon Springman, Sean Michael Hunt, Richard Strimer, Lamont Brown, Annie Jo Ermel, Jackson Evans,Danielle Jackman, Ian Liberto, Mandy Modic, Thomas Ortiz, Katherine Patton and Collin Sanderson. GREAT WORK! This show doesn’t work without your drive and talent!

As always Marriott’s costumes (Nancy Missimi), lighting (Jesse Klug), sound (Robert E, Gilmartin) and props (Sally Weiss) are top-notch. The sets on this type of stage are cleverly created by Thomas M. Ryan, but no mention of who did the plumbing is in the press notes or program. The music direction, as always is by Ryan T. Nelson and Patti Garwood conducting her 8 musicians makes the music fill the venue. They are wonderful, even making the overture (which I find unneeded) a tasteful piece that allowed the senior audience to settle in to their seats. AUDIENCE MEMBERS- if a ticket says 4:30 start, why not get to the theater BEFORE 4:30? Be considerate of the other audience members and the cast, PLEASE!