San Diego, CA—No one can accuse San Diego Musical Theatre of staging just oft seen musicals. “Singin’ In The Rain” based on the 1952 MGM Film of the same name with screen play and adaptation by Betty Comden and Adolph Green and songs by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed is one of those ‘oldies’ but goodies that starred Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds. It topped the AFI’s 100 Years of Musicals List and is ranked ‘as the fifth greatest American motion picture of all time”.
Seldom though is it staged. It’s a monster of a show to mount with a cast of about thirty two with 14 scenes in Act I and 5 in Act II, a total of 19 scenes, set changes and as many different costumes (Janet Pitcher is costume coordinator. Period costumes are gorgeous.) All those changes slow the production down and giving way to a choppy disconnect.
On the other hand, some of the musical numbers are as familiar as are the life lines on you hand: “You Stepped Out of a Dream”, “All I Do Is Dream of You”, “Make ‘Em Laugh”, “Beautiful Girl”, “You Are My Lucky Star”, “You Were Meant For Me”, “Moses Supposes”, “Good Morning”, “Would You” and of course “Singing In The Rain”. The woman sitting next to me mouthed the words to every single one of them.
And let’s not forget that rain. Living in draught ridden So. California it was somewhat of a novice to see the entire cast dancing in the finale donned in yellow slickers with umbrellas.
Some visions are hard to forget but not the one with leading man Don Lockwood (the versatile Brandon Davidson) sloshing in the rain water (recycled) and making it look easy hoping up on the one lamppost, and then with his best pal and childhood Vaudevillian friend Cosmo (the talented Cameron Lewis) and new squeeze Kathy (beautifully danced and sung by Brittany Rose Hammond) dancing to “Good Morning” in the much remembered dance scene where the three dance on the sofa turning it on its side.
The story, set in 1929, traces the evolution of the silent film to talkies. Its fun to watch the slow change as the silent film studio that stars Lockwood and his leading lady Lina Lamont (Andi Davis is a kick and a half) go through the melodramatic swashbuckling scenes in their famous series “The Dueling Cavaliers”, giving way to “The Jazz Singer” that revolutionized the motion picture industry.
The saga of Lockwood and his leading lady is the force that drives this nonsensical narrative throughout. Briefly, if possible, Lamont and Lockwood are seen as off screen lovers as well as on screen ones, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Lockwood is simply not interested and therein lays the rub since they are pictured together at every media event.
Keeping the rumor alive is the the roving gossip queen Dora Bailey (a lively and on target Karla J. Franko) channeling gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (check it out) interviewing all the so- called stars as she manages to couple the two to promote studio hype. That’s the way it was back then.
Unfortunately, Lina has the most gawdawful speaking voice (“What’s Wrong With Me”) and can’t sing worth a damn. When Cosmo suggests the studio change “The Dueling Caviler” to a musical, “The Dancing Caviler” all hell breaks loose. Enter Kathy Seldon a budding new star who can sing and dance and speak in a reasonable sounding voice. She’s hired to (after a fashion) dub her voice in place of Lina’s to make the studio’s ‘talkies’ more palatable.
And so it goes. Lina finds out about Kathy and Don, exercises her options and gets rid of Kathy; Don falls for Kathy and likewise, the studio boss, R.F. Simpson (blustering Ed Hollingsworth) goes into a tailspin and the chorus dances on (“Broadway Rhythm”).
It all comes together nicely with the large, talented and colorful SDMT cast, under the musical direction of the talented Don LeMaster and his twenty piece orchestra with lively choreography by Jill Gorrie and directed by Todd Nielsen but the pizzazz of the movie fizzles and gets lost in translation from big screen to stage.
If you’ve not seen the movie version of “Singin’ In The Rain” nor plan to this will be a popping first, especially with all the singing and dancing, something San Diego Musical Theatre does best.
See you at the theatre.
Dates: Through June 7th
Organization: San Diego Musical Theatre
Production Type: Musical
Where: 121 Broadway, San Diego, CA
Ticket Prices: Start at $35.00
Venue: Spreckels Theatre