Singin' In the Rain
In the 1980s, before it was cool (or seemingly mandatory) to adapt movie musicals to the stage and back again, Betty Comden and Adolph Green turned the MGM classic, "Singin' in the Rain" into a West End hit.
Although there's a Broadway revival in the works (imported from Paris) for 2017, the show has enjoyed more attention abroad than in the U.S. Marriott Theatre's overall charming version, under the direction of William Brown with Choreography by Tammy Mader and Music Direction by Ryan T. Nelson, makes one wonder why.
Certainly the show has daunting elements, including translating the iconic downpour and silent movie snippets into live action, but Brown and his production team handle these with ease. To cultivate the Roaring Twenties, Hollywood feel, Thomas M. Ryan rings the stage in the round with chaser lights and makes extensive use of the flies to drop in a marquee, a light box, a perch for a cameraman and so on.
Ryan beautifully doubles the over-the-top set pieces for the two silent movies, rendering an arched trellis, potted topiary, and a bench in color and delicious black and white. Nancy Missimi's costumes don't always hit the mark here (her color choices for Lina and the styling for Kathy are both distractingly not quite right at times), she knocks it out of the park in mirroring the set for this smart, effective living-color-to-silver-screen visual joke.
Jesse Klug's lighting is also key to this success, perfectly suggesting the stuttering frame rate of early film without letting the gag get overwhelming. The same goes for lighting the rain in the title dance sequence, but the entire design is beautiful and evocative, from the roving spots during the overture to the rapidly shifting moods of the fantasy ballet near the end.
Patti Garwood, as usual, leads a small but highly capable musical ensemble in well-thought-out orchestral reductions by David Siegel that suit the music to the space and complement the singers, rather than competing with them.
Danny Gardner freely channels Gene Kelly as Don Lockwood, the Vaudevillian turned silent film star. Gardner's voice and physicality especially evoke Kelly, which is almost certainly the way to go. He puts his own dramatic stamp on the role, though, and deftly handles many of the interactions with both Lina and Kathy that could have easily left the production sounding unforgivably dated.
Alexandra Palkovic embraces the role of Lina Lamont in all its shrieky, diva-ish glory. She's stunningly good in the silent-film scenes, and despite her own claim to the press that she likes the fact that the "good guys" win and Lina gets her comeuppance, Palkovic's performance is so engaging that you can't help hating the other characters a little bit for being so lousy to her. But like the fact that Gardner plays Don as sharper and with a genuinely fragile ego, this helps rather than hinders a production of a story creeping up on seventy by giving it some emotional complexity.
Mary Michael Patterson has a little bit less to work with on this front, as Kathy is cut from the same cloth as 42nd Street's Peggy Sawyer: She's a little too good to be true, and her big break is a little too incredible. Patterson, though, has a lovely voice and holds her own in the straight scenes as well as the song-and-dance numbers...
...In the supporting cast, Gabriel Ruiz was a standout as the hard-done-by director, Roscoe Dexter. Ruiz and Jason Grimm (R. F. Simpson) played well off one another and off Jackson Evans (Rod, the studio's "third banana"), hitting all the necessary comic notes. All of the successful performances are further strengthened by a hard-working, highly skilled ensemble.