Raining Achievement: Carnegie’s “Singing in the Rain”
Review by Doug Iden
Amidst a flurry of music and dancing, “Singin’ in the Rain” thunders onto the Carnegie Stage. Based upon the classic movie of the same name, “Singin'” tells the story of the often chaotic, often hilarious Hollywood transition from silent films into sound in the late 1920’s.
Then MGM producer Arthur Freed commissioned Broadway playwrights and lyricists Betty Comden and Adolph Green to write an original screenplay with the proviso that all of the songs would be written by himself and composer Nacio Herb Brown from previous movies. Comden and Green opted to write about the silent to sound transition by comedically exaggerating many of the actual events.
The theatrical version is very true to the movie including all of the dances and songs and most of the comedy. The problems Hollywood had was a lack of experience with sound technology, no dialogue screen writers, no composers or lyricists for musicals and many actors with foreign or rural accents.
The show opens with the silent movie premiere of Hollywood’s most popular stars Don Lockwood (Logan Anthony) and Lina Lamont (Juno Brosas). During an interview, Lockwood reminisces about his “dignified” musical background which, in reality, was sleazy Vaudeville with his buddy Cosmo Brown (Andy Donnelly). Through a transparent curtain, Lockwood and Brown dance to the tune “Fit as A Fiddle”.
Lina thinks that Don is in love with her but he clearly is not. To escape fandom, Don walks away and runs into a somewhat despondent Kathy Selden (Delaney Benson) an aspiring theater actor who doesn’t recognize him. Immediately smitten, Don sings “You Stepped Out of a Dream” accompanied by Kathy and a youth chorus. Kathy disdains Don because he is a mere movie actor (and not a good one either). They next meet at a party when Kathy pops out of a fake cake and performs a chorus musical number to the bemusement of Don.
In the process of filming another silent carbon copy French Revolution saga The Dueling Cavalier, Monumental Pictures Studio Head R. F. Simpson (Aaron Marshall) decides that they must do a sound picture based upon the success of The Jazz Singer.
Now the comedy starts with unsuccessful vocal lessons for Lina who has a high-pitched New York accent. Don and Cosmo frolic in the dance number “Moses Supposes”, mocking the diction exercises. One of the greatest comic dances is Cosmo’s assertion to “Make ‘Em Laugh”. Donnelly does an excellent job reproducing an abbreviated version of Donald O’Connor’s master turn.
The first act ends with the iconic dance to the title song “Singing in the Rain” including actual water falling on the stage. Anthony does an excellent reproduction of the original dance by Gene Kelly. Other chorus dance routines include “Beautiful Girls” and “Broadway Melody (Gotta Dance)”.
Overall, this is an excellent production. Donnelly, Anthony and Benson are all exceptional dancers and good singers. Ensemble numbers on a small stage are tricky but handled admirably by the cast, led by Director/Choreographer Maggie Perrino. The large cast of 18, including a teen singing and dancing ensemble, add significantly to the show. I laud the Carnegie’s goal of including young performers in their productions.
Splashed with color, the costumes designed by Allison Jones evoke the 1920’s era with a stunning variety of clothes including formal dress, French Revolution finery and flapper outfits. Wigs by Colin Jeffrey adorn Lina and the French Revolution scene actors.
Lighting by Kate Ingram first allows us to see through a sometime transparent curtain in several scenes including the climatic final scene but then reverts to opaqueness when lit from the front.
The best theatrical effect, however, is the use of video to portray the movies which the audience would have been seeing. Using the theater actors, the film projects on a screen with imperfections such as static, lines through the images and stilted acting. A major gag is seeing the actor’s lip movements out of sync with the sound (which was a common problem early on).
So, grab your umbrella and a Macintosh and paddle on down to the Carnegie Theater to wash in the glory of “Singin’ in the Rain” running through February 12. Get your tickets HERE.