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San Francisco by Richard Connema

Singin' in the Rain Has Exuberant Dancing

Broadway By The Bay is currently presenting their first musical of the 2003 season, the classic musical about Hollywood in the '20s, Singin' In the Rain. The musical comedy is based on the 1952 MGM film that has become one of the most loved and celebrated movie musicals of all times. The film, with screenplay and adaptation by Betty Comden and Adolf Green, has songs by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed. The musical closely follows the film which starred Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor.

Singin' In the Rain satirizes and parodies the panic that surrounded the movie industry during that transitional period of silents to talkies in the Hollywood of 1927. You would have to be comatose to not enjoy the movie version of the MGM classic. The film is my all time favorite movie musical, and I have watched it so many times that I know each scene by heart.

Many very successful Broadway musicals have fared badly when adapted by Hollywood and the reverse can be true also. This is the case with Singin' In the Rain; it just does not work well in the live stage medium. The cast, although very capable and enjoyable to watch, just can’t capture the charisma or spirit of the original.

This production marks the third time that I have seen this musical. I saw it at the Palladium in London several years ago with Tommy Steele and Roy Castle. (It was interesting to note that Tommy maintained his English accent and there were changes made to his character - his show biz career began in Britain.) The San Jose Civic Light Opera did a fairly good production of the several years ago with Dirk Lumbard as Don Lockwood and James Torcellini as Cosmo. Melodie Wolford played Kathy Shelden.

Singin' in the Rain
Stephen Perez and Darren Fuller
The current production is good by regional standards, but there are spots where the action almost stops for scene changes. It needs to be tightened to make the musical move. There was something lacking during the matinee performance that we saw. I admit that this is one hard show to present since it needs not only great tap dancers but good singers as well. Darren Fuller, who has performed in many regional theaters across the United States, is a great dancer, but he has problems reaching the notes in songs such as “You Stepped Out of a Dream” and “You Were Meant for Me.” His dancing on the rain-soaked stage in the title number is excellent, but he has problems with the song. I thought he might be suffering from a cold what with all that rain pouring down on him. Stephen Perez goes a little over the top as Cosmo, but he is outstanding in his dancing to “Good Morning,” “Moses” and “Make 'Em Laugh.” Both are also excellent in the comedy dance number “Fit as a Fiddle,” and Fuller shows good dancing moves in the “Broadway Melody” ballet number .

Melissa Wolfkain is a delight as Ruth Selden. She has a certain perkiness and a winning voice that is clear as a bell. She is very good in her rendition of “You are My Lucky Star.” Paige Cook Perez as Lina Lamont has a voice that is a cross between a screech and a high speed drill. However, you get used to her piercing nasal tone and comic Brooklynese accent as Lina tries to make the transition to talking pictures.

Berle Davis once again shows the audience that he is a remarkable choreographer. His choreography for the “Broadway Melody” number is top flight. The final “Singin' in the Rain” by the whole cast is marvelous. Also, the dance number with the girls all dressed up in pink gowns is beautifully presented.

The sets look like the San Jose Civic Light Opera sets, and they are a little tattered around the edges. Choral work by Brandon Adams is first-rate. The orchestra, under the direction of Attilio Tribuzi, is zippy and right on the mark. Director Brooke Knight could have had the scene changes a little tighter, but this might have been due to a short rehearsal period before the opening on Friday night.

Singin' In the Rain plays at the San Mateo Performing Arts Center, 600 Delaware St, San Mateo thru April 27th. For tickets call 650-579-5568 ext 1 or visit www.broadwaybythebay.org. There next production will be The Sound of Music, opening on July 18th.


Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area


- Richard Connema



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