Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Singin' in the Rain
Betty Comden and Adolph Green wrote the exceptional film screenplay and collaborated on the stage production, where the plot follows the movie almost scene for scene–which is a good thing. Silent film duo Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont have made numerous films together and 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 is released as the first "talking picture and becomes an instant success, all of the studios in town scramble to turn their upcoming silent movies into sound films. Since the next Lockwood and Lamont film is already filmed and booked to be released in six weeks, the studio plans to reshoot it with sound. There's just one problem: Lina's screechy, loud voice isn't exactly cut out for an audience to hear. Also, as Don's best friend Cosmo Brown says, Lina is a triple threat since "she can't act, she can't sing, and she can't dance." Cosmo comes up with an idea that he thinks can save the studio while also helping Kathy's career and cementing the relationship between Don and Kathy. They just have to keep Lina from finding out what they are up to.
Even though the leads most likely won't make you forget the film's talented trio of Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O'Connor, they are all quite engaging. While Michael Starr is fine as Don Lockwood and Elyssa Blonder is charming as Kathy Selden, and they both sing and dance effectively, they are outshone by Blake Patrick Spellacy as Cosmo Brown and Emily Mohney as Lina Lamont, who are both superb. Spellacy's infectious glee, wink in his eye, and perfect facial expressions create a winning portrayal of the comical sidekick. Mohney is comically delicious as the ditzy dame with the screechy voice who is on a "take no prisoners" mission.
In supporting roles, D. Scott Withers and Geoff Belliston are both good as the studio head and film director, and Sally Jo Bannow is bright and breezy in a few supporting roles, including the gossip columnist Dora Bailey.
Jeff Whiting's direction keeps the pace fresh, the comic moments fun, and the musical moments infectious. Lauran Stanis' choreography recreates several of the film's famous dances with a sensational "Broadway Rhythm" sequence that builds to perfection. The act one closer, where Starr gleefully dances under a sheet of rain pouring down from above, is a crowd pleaser. Musical director Jeff Kennedy's music direction derives beautiful notes from the last cast and orchestra.
The creative elements are sublime, as Robert Kovach's simple but highly effective set design combines with gorgeous lighting by Daniel Davisson to create many memorable stage images. The colorful and elaborate costumes coordinated by CeCe Sickler and the period perfect hair and makeup designs by Kelly Yurko are wonderful. There are several filmed elements incorporated into the show, including original film pieces that represent the films Don and Lina make and video backgrounds, Dallas Nichols' video projections are perfect. The sound design by Dave Temby ensures everything is crisp and clear.
While Singin' in the Rain is almost a scene-by-scene recreation of the beloved film, and some of the leads in this production are just OK, with two actors who deliver great supporting parts and some superb dancing, it still makes for a charming, funny, and crowd-pleasing production.
Singin' in the Rain runs through April 3, 2022, at the Phoenix Theatre Company, 1825 N Central Avenue, Phoenix AZ. For tickets and information, please visit phoenixtheatre.com or call 602-254-2151.
Director/Musical Staging: Jeff Whiting
*Members of Actors' Equity Association, the union of professional actors & stage managers in the U.S.