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Singin' in the Rain

a Musical
CATEGORY :
by Comden & Green

COMPANY : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
ID# 3795

SHOWING : August 05, 2010 - September 05, 2010

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

The greatest movie musical of all time – It is 1927 and Hollywood is in a panic over the transition from silent films to “talking pictures.” Enter leading man, Don Lockwood, who falls hard for chorus girl, Kathy Selden. But Don’s leading lady is none too happy about the budding romance. Join us for this delightful romantic comedy with timeless melodies from the film like Fit As A Fiddle, Good Mornin’ and Make ‘Em Laugh and did we mention it RAINS?


CAST & CREW LIST
Music Director Ann-Carol Pence
Director Anne Towns
Kathy Selden Leslie Bellair
Ensemble Nicole Dramis
Lina Lamont Pamela Gold
Ensemble Laura Graham
Roscoe Dexter Steven L. Hudson
Ensemble Anna Kimmell
Production Tenor/Ensemble Jason Marett
Ensemble John Markowski
R.F. Simpson Anthony Rodriguez
Don Lockwood Justin Tanner
Dora Bailey Karen Whitaker
Ensemble Hilary Paige Willis
Cosmo Brown Jeremy Wood
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REVIEWS

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Singin' in the Reign of Ann-Carol Pence
by playgoer
Sunday, August 29, 2010
4.5
Aurora Theatre's "Singin' in the Rain" is a largely successful production with terrific singing all around in terms of the principals. The only vocal misstep in the show is Jason Marett's too-young, somewhat-flat lead vocals in "Beautiful Girl." That, of course, is discounting the intentionally off-key wailings of Pamela Gold as platinum-tressed starlet Lina Lamont. Her singing deftly delineates her tone-deaf character, while never causing the winces that unintentionally bad singing does.

Dancing is also good in the show, although Jen MacQueen's choreography is intentionally derivative and the big act two dance number of "Broadway Melody" has been cut in this production. Jeremy Wood, as Cosmo Brown, is always a joy to watch in dance numbers, with his genuine smile of delight, as is the expressive Leslie Bellair, as Kathy Selden. Hilary Paige Willis, in the ensemble, also delights with her spirit. Justin Tanner, as movie star Don Lockwood, dances nearly as well as his co-stars, but tends to get a look of concentration on his face in dance numbers, breaking only occasionally into a smile. The audience tends to enjoy a number more when the dancers make it look effortless.

Set, lighting, and sound are all at par or above for the Aurora. As a first, the orchesta isn't seen onstage in Lawrenceville (although it was normally hidden away in Duluth). The sound it produces, though, is terrific. Ann-Carol Pence deserves continued praise for her sparkling musical and vocal direction of shows all around town.

Although sometimes a bit clumpy in terms of blocking, Anne Towns' direction brings some very nice performances to life on the stage. Karen Whitaker and Steven L. Hudson both do creditable work in their main roles of Dora Bailey and Roscoe Dexter, and please even more in their minor roles as vocal coaches. The coach of Steven L. Hudson is dragged into the number "Moses Supposes" with especially comic effect. John Markowski and Nicole Dramis also do well in their varied minor roles. Anthony Rodriguez, as producer R.F. Simpson, shows just the right amount of bluster, working well within the ensemble of the show.

Are you going to be blown away by the rain effect at the end of act one? No. Like the rest of the show, it's serviceable and effective. The same can be said of costumes, which nicely reflect 20's styles, but aren't always very flattering. Karen Whitaker's elegant Hollywood premiere outfit raises expectations at the start of the show, but the simpler costumes for Kathy Selden don't always show her to good effect. I was happy to see Leslie Bellair without a wig, but I would have preferred a shorter, more period flapper bob. The wigs in use worked well on other females in the cast.

This is a good, solid show, giving audiences lots of fun. The performance I saw was attended by a couple of young children who seemed solidly entertained by the show. In the final number, though, there was a little static in the sound system, and one child asked a few times "Mommy, what was that sound?" Given that the plot of the show concerns the rise of the talkies, with consequent sound problems, this innocent remark brought a smile to my lips. The smile remained right through the reprise of "Singin' in the Rain" and curtain calls. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
What a Glorious Feeling!
by Dedalus
Thursday, August 19, 2010
4.5
“Singin’ in the Rain” is a movie loved by people of all ages and all types and all persuasions. A view of a Hollywood that never was as seen through Hollywood-tinted glasses, it boasts striking characters, memorable songs, and a cast that seems to enjoy working and playing with each other.

But, of course, I’m betting you already know that.

The movie’s stage adaptations have had a rockier road to travel. A number of years ago, I saw a version that tried to imitate everything about the movie, even down to having the actors “impersonate” the film’s stars, in costume, look, and line readings. It sunk like a boot in a puddle – it required massively extended scene changes, and left me thinking that if I wanted to watch the movie, I would have rented the movie.

So, now, Lawrenceville’s Aurora Theatre has staged the story, and has brought a truly original feel to it, making it seem fresh and new all over again (in spite of quite a few nods to Gene Kelly’s original choreography).

Let’s start with the look of the piece. The play is done on a unit set (well-designed by Seamus Bourne), an impressionistic movie soundstage, with the classic “Hollywoodland” sign overlooking it like a proud papa. Scenes are switched with well-choreographed changes of small furniture pieces or set dressings. Gone is the slavish attempt to make every scene look EXACTLY like its filmed counterpart.

Moving on to the casting, none of the three principles remotely resemble their filmic forbears, and that’s all to the good. If Justin Tanner’s Don Lockwood and Jeremy Wood’s Cosmo Brown are a tad too similar in appearance, they are miles apart in manner. And Leslie Bellair gives Kathy Seldon a more brunette and semi-exotic look that drives any recall of Debbie Reynolds to the memory back burner. All three are wonderful, making the songs and moves their own, completely at home with the period mannerisms, completely comfortable in the roles.

Pamela Gold is screamingly funny as the screamingly nasal-voiced Lina Lamont and Anthony Rodriguez brings his usual gravitas to studio boss R.F. Dexter. They are ably supported by an eight-member ensemble who play a plethora of roles, and fill the stage as if it were an epic adventure.

As to the music, MD Ann-Carol Pence has created something special here. Her small orchestra was hidden behind the set, but was so in pitch, so in character I first thought they were pre-recorded, a notion that was of course disabused by their program listing and by seeing them on video through the curtain call. All the voices blended beautiful, and there was not a bad note to be heard. I’m sometimes guilty of ignoring the contributions Music Directors bring to a show, but when everything and everyone sounds this good, you know they’re being led by someone at the top of her game.

As I said above, choreographer Jen MacQueen borrowed a lot of Gene Kelly’s original steps, but, scaled it down and gave it enough original flourishes, that it all seemed brand new and original. I especially liked the finale of “Make ‘Em Laugh,” which uses our knowledge of the original choreography as the basis for a nice sight gag. Ms. MacQueen also created the marvelous video sequences that reproduce the epic disaster of a movie being filmed in the story.

Costumes, Props, Sound and Wigs were also nicely conceived and executed, and provided more steps in the joyous dance that is this show.

If I have any gripes, it would be with the plumbing. The title number, of course, featured real rain delivered from a single pipe overhead, with some uneven results (too sparse in some places, too heavy in others). I could also quibble that it was too loud and drained too quickly for the puddle-splashes of the number, but, for the life of me, I can’t imagine how either of these issues could have been resolved (soft water? Not likely…). And, seriously, I’m betting I’m the only one who even noticed.

So, director Anne Towns and her cast and production team are all to be commended for successfully navigating what was surely a razor-edge battle with audience expectations. The movie is such an indelible memory, that messing with it would spell disaster, as would trying to reproduce it too slavishly. Instead, the troupe has found the heart of the piece and brought their own talents into the mix, succeeding in telling a familiar story in a new and exciting way.

I went into this play with not a little trepidation, but now that I’ve seen it, well, all I can say is, “What a glorious feeling! I’m happy again!”

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)


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