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Singin' in the Rain

This Goodspeed show based on the classic 1952 film suffers from charisma-free leads and a too-loud orchestra.

By Connecticut
David Elder and Scott Barnhardt in Singin' in the Rain
(© Diane Sobolewski)
David Elder and Scott Barnhardt in Singin' in the Rain
(© Diane Sobolewski)
In presenting a stage adaptation of Singin' in the Rain, the classic 1952 movie musical about the early days of talking pictures, Goodspeed Opera has failed where it counts most. While it's no easy task to find triple threats who can stand up to memories of the film's singular stars, Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds, the duo that Goodspeed has come up with -- David Elder as Don Lockwood and Sarah Jane Everman as Kathy Selden -- don't even come close to setting this jewel box of a house on fire.

Elder has the requisite matinee-idol look for Don, he's a decent dancer, and his smooth baritone does justice to the romantic ballads. Conversely, Everman's thin, undistinguished voice barely carries across the footlights, even with a body mike. Neither performer exhibits much charisma, and if there's little chemistry between them, the fault may lie mostly with Everman's overly drab Kathy. Yes, this wannabe star is supposed to start out ordinary, all the better to dazzle once the spotlight homes in; but, as played here, she wouldn't merit a Maglite. Moreover, Everman is the weak link in whatever chorus line she joins -- although Rick Conant's choreography, modeled on the Gene Kelly/Stanley Donen original, sparkles.

Musical director Michael O'Flaherty has the eight-member orchestra so cranked up that it often drowns out the entire company, as in the added opening number, "Goin' Hollywood," which director Ray Roderick borrowed from a Bing Crosby movie. Yet the odds aren't insurmountable, as evidenced by Jacob ben Widmar's robust rendition of "Beautiful Girl," performed with an aggressively twinkly smile. This is one of only a handful of moments that perk up this generally humdrum, workmanlike reenactment of the film, which affords way too much time for admiring Angela Wendt's luscious costuming.

Of the supporting cast, Paul Aguirre, as the diction teacher enlivens the "Moses Supposes" scene; in the brief time allotted, he creates a rounded, comic character who's clearly enamored of his subject matter. Dancer Sarah Lin Johnson, a former Rockette, lends her seemingly endless legs and smoldering sexuality to the vamp who gives Lockwood the glad eye in "Broadway Melody" -- the Runyonesque production number interpolated to jazz up Lockwood's first talkie, "The Dancing Cavalier."

Stacey Logan does a nice job acting the part of Lockwood's phonetically challenged co-star, Lina Lamont, and if her singing voice doesn't carry, at least she's got a good excuse. As Cosmo Brown, Lockwood's comic sidekick, Scott Barnhardt proves the dictum that "comedy is hard." His "Make 'Em Laugh" routine, though technically proficient, falls as flat as an overworked joke. However, as he relaxes into the role, he can be a joy to watch; and he's one of those hoofers whose beatific face hovers, joyous and unruffled, over fleet footwork.

It's not much of a spoiler to reveal that the rain eventually comes, but what really rains on this particular parade is an ironic inversion of the movie's plot. Just as old Hollywood had difficulties adapting to the era of sound, it would appear that comparable problems continue to plague live theater.


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