Regional Reviews: Phoenix
The plot of the musical follows the exceptional film screenplay by Betty Comden and Adolph Green almost scene for scene, which is a good thing. It focuses on film duo Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont, a famous on-screen duo of the silent film era who are also rumored in the gossip columns to be an off-screen couple. However, Don has no feelings for Lina and one night, after a screening of their latest film, he meets ingénue Kathy Selden and instantly falls in love with her. When The Jazz Singer, the first "talking" picture, is released and becomes a huge success, it means that Don and Lina's next film will be a talkie. The only problem? Nina's voice isn't exactly cut out for an audience to hear and their next film is already booked to be released in six weeks. What can be done to save the picture, the studio, and their careers? Don's best friend Cosmo Brown, who hilariously says Nina is a triple threat since she can't act, sing or dance, comes up with an idea that he thinks can help Kathy's career and also save the film.
Director M. Seth Reines does a very good job of keeping the fast, fun pace of the story moving along while also ensuring the serious moments resonate and the comic moments get laughs. He has found a talented cast with all but the three leads pulled from the vast talent of the Phoenix area. While the leads won't make you forget the film's talented trio of Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O'Connor, they work well together and are all great dancers. As Don Lockwood, Will Nash Broyles is fine, though a bit subdued. He's engaging enough and elicits charm while also appearing appropriately smitten by Amanda Farbstein's winning portrayal of Kathy Selden. Jacody Bullard's exceptional dancing is the highlight of his somewhat quirky and slightly over the top take on Cosmo Brown. With a hilariously harsh accent that sounds like nails on a chalkboard, Kaitlynn Kleinman is superb as Lina Lamont.
In the supporting cast, Rob Watson and Jeff Deglow nicely flesh out the somewhat two-dimensional roles of the studio boss and the film's director, while Kathi Osborne and Bennett Allen Wood provide humor as the gossip columnist and two of the diction coaches. Also, Thomas Strawser provides a lovely and bright solo on "Beautiful Girls." The rest of the ensemble deliver superb dancing under choreographer Dottie Lester-White, whose steps both beautifully mirror and add to the famous film dances, which include an abundance of excellent tap steps in "Fit as a Fiddle," "Moses Supposes" and "Good Morning," plus many other upbeat, fun dances throughout.
While the set elements, drops and costumes are all rentals, and all work perfectly to portray the time period of the musical, the film pieces in the show are original and the video recreations from Martin Flores and Martian Media Studio of silent movies they portray are fun and very well done. Jeff A. Davis' lighting is lovely and provides a nice contrast between the off-screen moments and the movie production scenes within the show. While they aren't able to have actual water coming down on the stage for the iconic title song, Davis' lighting effect and Jason Lynn's sound design provide an exceptional alternative. JR McAlexander's excellent music direction delivers some bright and warm sounds from both the cast and the large onstage 17-piece orchestra.
Though Singin' in the Rain, in Concert is just shy of a fully staged production and an almost straightforward scene by scene recreation of the famous film, with a good cast and some superb dancing, it is a charming, witty, warm and hard to resist stage musical.
Singin' in the Rain, in Concert runs through December 2, 2018, at the Orpheum Theatre located at 203 W Adams Street, Phoenix. Information on this show and upcoming Broadway at the Orpheum shows can be found at americantheatreguild.com/phoenix/.