Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
Taking into account that Singin' in the Rain is considered perhaps the finest movie musical of all time, any stage production competes with the memory of the film and the iconic stars Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald O'Connor. It is happy news to report that this production has found the ideal performers to take on all the main roles and they manage (for at least a couple hours or so) to make you pretty much forget the film version.
Melody Meitrott Libonati is the astute director of the show. I admired her directorial work greatly last summer when Summer Theatre of New Canaan put on a terrific production of West Side Story. Singin' in the Rain is quite a different show, to say the least, but director Libonati works her magic here, as well, with highly pleasurable results. For starters, the show looks great, with an attractive Hollywood-like scenic design by Charles Pavarini III, excellent period costumes by Robert Fletcher, and exceptional lighting by Devon Allen.
Still, even a production as good-looking as this one would fail without the right actors to take on these famous roles. Matthew Tiberi is just wonderful in the Gene Kelly part of Don Lockwood, bringing his own amiable personality to the character and, as referred to above, he does literally sing in the rain in one of the show's most joyous moments. David Rossetti is a great clown playing Cosmo Brown, the Donald O'Connor role, and he even manages to make such immortal songs as "Make 'em Laugh" and "Good Morning" seem completely fresh and funny. Joining Rosetti and Matthew Tiberi in the "Good Morning" number is the adorable Annabelle Fox, as Kathy Seldon. This part was, of course, played by the recently departed and irreplaceable Debbie Reynolds. Her costars, Annabelle Fox wisely keeps from doing an impersonation of the original star and, instead, brings her own sweet voice and impressive acting and dancing skills to the role.
It must be mentioned that the real scene-stealer and showstopper of this production is Jodi Stevens, who takes on the role of Lina Lamont, a silent screen star whose voice could shatter glass. Jean Hagen immortalized this role on screen and she received an Oscar nomination for her work. Lina Lamont must possess both movie star looks, as well as a piercingly funny speaking voice. Stevens accomplishes these tasks brilliantly in a truly hilarious and memorable performance, and she perform "What's Wrong With Me?," a song that is not in the film version.
The rest of the company all come up aces, making this production a sheer summertime delight. It would be worth going to Summer Theatre of New Canaan just to watch Matthew Tiberi sing and dance in the rain (with expert choreography by Doug Shankman), but this Singin' in the Rain offers so much more, including infectious full company production numbers. The show is a real lark and is almost guaranteed to send you out of the theatre grinning from ear to ear.
Singin' in the Rain continues performances at Summer Theatre of New Canaan in New Canaan, CT through July 30th, 2017. For tickets, please visit www.stonc.org or call the box office at 203-966-4634.