Saturday, June 02, 2007

Goodspeed's "Singin' In The Rain" Dazzles

I've been trying to come up with negatives about The Goodspeed Musical production of "Singin' In The Rain." Forgive me and forgive the pun: I come up dry. On stage, though, at the old Opera House in East Haddam, the showers begin precisely on cue for the title tune and number.
The presentation entertains throughout.

Remember the classic film with Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald O'Connor? Fear not -- you will never forget it. The current adaptation, quite faithful to the MGM movie, is a major hit unto itself, scoring points all over the lot.

It's 1927 and the opening number, new for this production, is called "Goin' Hollywood." It's a stunner set at Grauman's Chinese Theater complete with music, dance, a production company flying around.....Not only that: these performers, led by director Ray Roderick and choregrapher Rick Conant, appear to be having the times of their lives!

There's the ill-fated romance: Lina Lamont ( Stacey Logan) has wrapped a motion picture called "The Dueling Cavalier" with handsome Don Lockwood (David Elder). Problem: her impossibly irritating, nasal voice. True love: Don falls for Kathy Selden (Sarah Jane Everman) who hopes to get into movies. She will literally become Lina's singing voice and before long Kathy will replace Lina as the woman in Don's personal life. Logan's depiction of Lina is droll, diverting, exaggerated - and out-and-out winner.

Meanwhile, Scott Barnhardt plays Cosmo Brown, a kind of Sancho figure to Don Elder. Barnhardt is delightfully frantic in the role originated by Donald O'Connor. Elder doesn't attempt to be Gene Kelly but he's a fine dancer, possesses a rich baritone voice, and is charismatic. Selden is sweet rather than glamorous; she makes for a neat fit. A youthful Debbie Reynolds starred in the film version.

It was quite a technological feat for Goodspeed to create a storm without spraying those in the first row of the orchestra -- and without freezing out Elder. The moderate rain must be of moderate temperature, too.

Familiar tunes? "You Are My Lucky Star," "You Were Meant For Me," "Moses," "Good Mornin'," and, of course, "Singin' In The Rain." They were penned by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed. Betty Comden and Adolph Green wrote the film screenplay while Kelly and Stanley Donen choreographed the film.

Goodspeed is fortunate to have had talented James Noone design the many drops for the show; and the theater has a splendid scene shop facilities to create sets.

Naysayers somewhere will surely claim that Elder cannot compare with Kelly; that Barnhardt hasn't O'Connor's comic chops; that Reynolds was one of a kind. Why even bother to mess with a legendary film musical?

"Singin'" is both funny and fun. There isn't any pretention about it being the movie. The performers are excellent and the resultant show is terrific. It is not in competition with the movie. The current production, which began in April and concludes July 6, feels fresh. Those who missed a golden era of musical comedy on Broadway decades ago would do well to visit the Goodspeed now.
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