TIMES OF SAN DIEGO
It took 30 years for the beloved movie musical to make it to the stage, but the theatrical version of “Singin’ in the Rain” maintains all the familiar songs and characters and story. And the expected fabulous dancing.
But, as presented by San Diego Musical Theatre (directed by Todd Nielsen), it feels choppy and episodic, with unnecessarily slow scene changes, overly elaborate sets and a sense that nearly every song is unmotivated, some bordering on non sequitur (Hello, “Broadway Ballet (Gotta Dance),” I’m talking to you!). The sluggish directorial pace and an over-long intermission stretch the running time to nearly three hours.
And yet, given a talented cast of 29 and a terrific 20-piece orchestra (under the baton of musical director Don LeMaster), it’s nearly impossible not to be charmed.
We’re watching the end of the silent film era, and Monumental Pictures chief R. F. Simpson (Ed Hollingsworth) knows it’s time to dip a toe into the “talkies.” His big star, Don Lockwood (lanky, long-limbed Hugh Jackman lookalike Brandon Davidson) is ready. So’s Don’s piano-playing, dance-happy comic sidekick, Cosmo Brown (hilarious, mega-talented Cameron Lewis). But their leading lady, Lina Lamont (knockout Andi Davis) has a voice that could shatter a chandelier.
So, Don’s new squeeze, the up-and-comer Kathy Selden (adorable, irresistible Brittany Rose Hammond) is brought in to be Lina’s offstage singing and speaking stand-in. Lina isn’t too happy with the situation, and tries to take control – of Don, Kathy, their romance and the whole studio. (Davis is a hoot in her solo, “What’s Wrong with Me?,” but her accent and vocal deviations come and go like the wind).
Many of Hollywood’s worst failings are underscored: from demanding divas to rumor-spreading gossip columnists, from the ‘casting couch’ to sub-dubbing to behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing.
Betty Comden and Adolph Green wrote the 1952 MGM screenplay and the 1983 stage adaptation (which worked flawlessly at Moonlight Stage Productions in 2003), with songs by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed.
The singing and dancing are best here, thanks to some great voices and first-rate choreography by Jill Gorrie, including some of the iconic moves from the title song, which is totally nailed by Davidson, vocally and terpsichoreally.
The show is tap-happy, and that’s always fabulous fun (especially with Hammond, Lewis and Davidson in the mix). The costumes (coordinated by Janet Pitcher) are wildly colorful and sumptuous (especially gorgeous for Davis). There were numerous sound problems on opening night, with crackling body mics and the under-amplification of the below-stage orchestra, which at the outset sounded muffled and pre-recorded.
But it all came out well in the end, and everyone left happy. You can’t lose with gifted triple-threats at the center of the action, performing numbers like “Make ‘em Laugh,” “Moses Supposes,” “All I Do is Dream of You,” and “Good Morning,” not to mention the perpetually smile-inducing title tune (onstage rain shower included). When the big-hatted, Hedda Hopper-like gossipmonger, Dora Bailey (spot-on Karla J. Franko) chirped, “I just love it when it rains in California, don’t you?,” she brought down the house. And the full-cast, yellow-slickered, umbrella-wielding finale was the perfect topper for this amiable (if sometimes misguided) production.
“SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN” runs through 6/7 at the Spreckels Theatre, 121 Broadway, downtown
Performances are Thursday at 7:30pm, Friday and Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 2pm
Tickets ($25-$65) are available at 858-560-5740 or Ticketmaster (800-745-3000); www.sdmt.org
Running time: 2 hrs. 50 min.
©2015 PAT LAUNER