Actual Rain Doesn’t Dampen Enthusiasm of Delighted Johnstown Audience
Reviewed by Tom Jones, May 21, 2015
Yes it rains. Not just a mild sprinkle, but a torrential rain falls upon the stage, thoroughly drenching the dancing lead actor, as well as some of the audience in front rows! At the conclusion of Act I, Don Lockwood, enthusiastically played by Bob Hoppe, has returned from walking Kathy Selden to her home after 24 hours of deliberation concerning what to do with a very problematic movie-in-the making. He is joyful with the plans they have made, and also enthused, as he has fallen in love. A little rain doesn’t dampen his joy. In fact a lot of rain can’t even stop him. The scene from the movie became immortalized by the legendary Gene Kelly more than 50 years ago. The excitement has been transferred to the stage with Don Hoppes’ display of talent, as he sings and dances through a delightfully drenching rain! Hoppe not only stars in the show as Don Lockwood, but choreographed it, carefully re-creating much of the movie’s magic.
Don Lockwood’s love interest is Kathy Selden,. His friend and performing partner is Cosmo Brown. I saw Michelle Sergeeff in her first performance as Selden. The role is played by Rachel Turner in various performances. David Miller portrays the loose-limbed Cosmo. The three appear to be having the times of their lives on stage, as the performance demands of singing, dancing, and comedic routines are non-stop’. The original movie roles were played by Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor. Their portrayals have been so ingrained in our movie memories, that it must be a daunting task for anyone to fill their shoes. Hoppe, Sergeeff, and Miller work exceedingly hard to make the roles come to life on stage! Sergeeff is an incredible dancer. Whereas she has a lilting voice in some songs, dancing is her forte!
Donald Berlin is credited with staging and direction of the show. He had his work cut out, putting the incredible production together. The Candlelight Dinner Playhouse management team does not shy away from challenges. Executive Director Dave Clark notes that “Singin’ in the Rain” is one of the two most technically challenging shows the theatre has produced, the other being the audience charmer “Peter Pan” — where the leads flew above the stage, suspended by thin wires. No thin wires this time around, but lots and lots of moisture. I am anticipating a future Candlelight announcement that the Red Sea will be parted as a someday-stage-version of “The Ten Commandments!”
As a plot catch-up – the year is 1927, when silent films were the the entertainment rage. Hollywood’s Monumental Studios is just opening another successful silent film, “The Royal Rascal,” starring Hollywood’s favorite couple – Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont. This is yet another in a string of successful Lockwood-Lamont films with basically the same plot told over and over and over.. Lockwood cannot abide Lamont who claims they are a romantic couple. . When a competing studio comes up with a movie with sound, “The Jazz Singer,” the industry goes into shock. Monumental boss, R.F. Simpson realizes that his studio must face the opposition, and the movie, “the Dueling Cavalier,” they had just begin to film will be turned into a “talkie” – eventually a musical talkie to be known as “The Dancing Cavalier.” So far, so good. Lockwood has a good speaking, singing voice, but the Lina Lamont is a disaster. She has a horrific speaking voice and can’t begin to carry a tune. Newcomer Kathy Selden is brought in to provide the “voice” of the crazed Lamont, and mayhem ensues.
Stephen Charles Turner is convincing as the studio executive, trying to create order out of chaos. Beth Beyer is an enormous delight as the raucous Lina Lamont who everyone believes is incredibly stupid. Not so. She is not only in love with Don Lockwood, trying to hold his affection for Kathy Selden at bay, but is found to be substantially more clever than anyone had imagined.. She is also a wonder to see in action. Her scenes are brilliant – overshadowed only by the amazing dancing which fills much of the evening’s moments.
Among the show’s musical highlights are Don Lockwood and Cosmos Brown entertaining as Vaudeville performers to “Fit as a Fiddle,” Lockwood, Brown, and Selden realizing they have talked the night away with, “Good Morning,” and Brown pulling out all the stops in “Make ‘Em Laugh,.” The show’s greatest triumph, however, remains the “Singin’ in the Rain” finale to Act I.
David MacEachen is credited as being Technical Director. I am not certain what this entails, but the show includes several black-and-white movie scenes where problems are faced in synchronizing the film and soundtrack. One of these technical displays is a flawless laugh-out-loud charmer where Lamont’s inability to be understood is enormous fun.
The cast is large, including good performances by Scotty Shaffer, Samantha Jo Staggs, Thomas Castro, Melissa Morris and Markus Warren, as well as those mentioned earlier. Jack Barton holds center stage for a few moments with his super tenor version of “Beautiful Girl.” The featured dancers at performance I saw were the always-talented Broc Timmerman and Alisha Winter-Hayes. The orchestra, under direction of Angela Steiner as conductor, had some problems, especially early in the performance. This is unfortunate, and will hopefully be fine-tuned for shows later in the run.
The set and costumes are effective, as are lighting and sound., and the set. I wonder how long it takes to dry-out the stage after the heavy rain.
Whereas the movie was released in 1952, the stage version did not appear until 1983 when it opened at the London Palladium, starring Tommy Steele. The stage version has gone through several incarnations including a Broadway run in 1986 starring Don Coreia as Don. I saw both of those productions, and was a bit hesitant to see it this time around on a local stage. I erred. The large cast is immensely talented and the show looks terrific.
And for outright exuberance, Bob Hoppe cannot be matched. His joy is infectious as he sings and dances “Singin’ In The Rain” in the thoroughly-drenching downpour.
“Singing in the Rain”
Where: Candlelight Dinner Playhouse
4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown, CO 80534
When: To July 12, 2015.
For Tickets: Box Office: 970/744-3747