Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Also see Susan's review of Newsies
Director Marcos Santana, whose staging of In the Heights at Olney received the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Resident Musical, and his design team have chosen to finesse the issue of "realism" by staging the show as a musical-within-a-movie. Dan Conway's basic scenic design is a stage at Monumental Pictures in 1927 Hollywood, with individual set pieces coming and going as needed; Andrew F. Griffin's lighting design and Roc Lee's sound design are self-consciously artificial (sunsets and tapping feet, that sort of thing). Rosemary Pardee's smart period costumes range from muted colors for studio employees to blinding gold dresses for chorus girls and movie stars.
For those unfamiliar with the film or who haven't seen it lately, the plot concerns the impact of sound movie technology on the complacent Hollywood bosses and stars of the pre-sound era. Audiences adore dashing Don Lockwood (Rhett Guter, charming and accomplished) and glamorous Lina Lamont (Farrell Parker, a hoot) as silent lovers, but both stars have problems once they have to start negotiating dialoguenot to mention the crew's difficulties in placing microphones where the actors can actually speak into them. Don's lifelong friend, pianist and ex-vaudevillian Cosmo Brown (Jacob Scott Tischler, funny and a touch acerbic), and young hopeful Kathy Selden (spirited Amanda Castro) keep the story moving.
But of course, the musical numbers are of primary importance here, and they are well staged by Grady McLeod Bowman with an energetic and appealing ensemble supporting the leads. Most of the songs are by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown, with assists from Comden and Green and composer Roger Edens.
Since this is Singin' in the Rain, the audience knows that Don is going to dance with his umbrella as the rain falls on him; Cosmo is going to knock himself out with "Make 'em Laugh," using the elements of Donald O'Connor's movie routine that won't incapacitate Tischler during a performance; and the "Broadway Melody" ballet is still the anchor of the second act, scaled down from the (unstageable) film original.
Olney Theatre Center