- (From top) Jack Ward, Brian McClure and Kathleen Malloy star as the happy-but-damp trio.
Hollywood musicals create a wondrous world in which the good guy wins and gets the gal, and the rascal gets his or her just deserts. Singin' in the Rain epitomizes the genre and is regarded as one of the top musicals. The REP's version at the Fine Arts Center does not disappoint.
The setting is 1927 in Tinseltown. Silent movies still rule, and tabloid darlings of the silent screen Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont (Jack Ward and Sara Borgeson) can do no wrong. But Hollywood is about to change; talking pictures are on the way.
The success of recently released talkie The Jazz Singer leads studio head R. F. Simpson (Julian Bucknall) to demand that Lockwood and Lamont's latest picture, The Dancing Cavalier, is re-shot with sound. There's just one problem: Lamont's voice is shrill, obnoxious and hardly befits her delicately crafted image.
Enter Cosmo Brown (Brian McClure), Lockwood's trusty sidekick, who comes to the rescue by getting talented Kathy Selden (Kathleen Malloy in the role made famous by Debbie Reynolds) to dub for Lamont.
All would seem well except Lockwood has the hots for Selden, but Lamont believes he belongs with her.
It's all a damn good excuse for a fun, energetic show. The talented performers throw themselves into well-known standards, including "Make 'Em Laugh" and a very wet "Singin' in the Rain."
Ward, as Lockwood, turns in a cheeky performance -- all smiles and feigned arrogance. Malloy, as Selden, belts out some powerful numbers, and Borgeson does a perfect turn as an obnoxious Lamont without letting the character deteriorate into a pitiless she-devil.
McClure's Cosmo is a Chaplin-like clown, effortlessly dancing his heart out as he cavorts across the stage, dodging plank swipes to the head.
Hats off to director Mark Hennessy who follows up January's inspired The Merry Wives of Windsor with another success. He treats the 1952 movie original with great respect while injecting his own brand of physical humor and cleverly intertwines theater with prerecorded film.
Some of the acting, however, seems forced, and the timing of the dancing is a bit off during the group numbers.
Overall, the comedy is well executed, and the eponymous rain scene immortalized by Gene Kelly will leave you wondering, How the hell did they do that?
Hennessey has gone hyperbolic.
Rather than singing in the rain, Ward is nearly drowning in a deluge. And like a duck to water, he laps it up.
But where does all that water go?
A cocksure Hennessey just smiles.
"Now that would be telling," he said. "It's the magic of the theater."
Rumor has it the water is channeled through the stage floor and pumped to let's just say a few puddles recently appeared in Prospect Lake.
Coincidence? Hennessey and the FAC remain tight lipped.
Singin' in the Rain is the last in the REP's 2004/05 season, so smuggle your 'brella past the ushers and go enjoy this end-of-season splash.
-- Wayne Young
Singin' in the Rain
Fine Arts Center, 30 West Dale St.
Open through May 22
Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.
$22 FAC members, $24 public in advance, $26 at the door