Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
The story revolves around the transition from silent movies to talkies, set in 1927 Hollywood. The fabled team of Lockwood and Lamont is having trouble moving into the newer medium: he can cross over, she has a voice like fingernails on a chalkboard. Comden and Green drew really recognizable characters from their various times in Hollywood, and the songs really do originate in that period, so we get an authentic feel for place and time.
The principal cast is very strong, and three of our four leading actors are also excellent dancers, so the glory of this production is getting to see the dancing; the choreography is by Brian Finnerty, and reminiscent of Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen's work in the film. "Make 'Em Laugh," "Moses Supposes," "Good Morning" and of course the title tune just about stop the show. Logan Junkins plays Don Lockwood and just dazzles with his dancing. Brian Finnerty also plays Cosmo Brown, and his comic/eccentric dancing is every bit as fine as Mr. Junkins'. Jessie Tasetano plays ingenue Kathy Seldon and completes the threesome in "Good Morning," complete with the finale as the sofa rolls over to sit on top of them. She is a little charmer. The fourth principal role is the scheming Lina Lamont, played in a masterful comic turn by Vera Samuels. I am aware that all of these people copy their performances somewhat from the stars of the film, but they do a great job of it. Other fine featured performances come from Peg Harvey as Dora Bailey (think Hedda Hopper), Ken Junkins as studio head R.F. Simpson, and Rik Robertson as production singer in the "Beautiful Girl" production number. Everyone else in the large cast also helps the positive energy of this production.
Director Kathy Junkins is to be commended, beyond leading a family affair of a production. The MGM movie is a classic, perfect in almost every way. No production could hope to better it or even come close to equaling it. She manages to put on an enjoyable afternoon or evening's entertainment, letting the immediacy of the dancing be the reason d'etre. She keeps the story unfolding at a lively pace and gets the best from her cast. Berry Ayers is credited as musical director; the cast sings to pre-recorded tracks with the usual results of occasional off pitch singing. It really is much harder to sing well with tracks than it is to sing with live musicians. Michael Newton Brown's set design is excellent within the restrains of budget. Tim Beltley's costumes are effective but can not compete with memories of MGM's fabled costume department. There were some microphone problems within Josh Linderman's sound design at the performance I saw. Lighting design by Patrick Bedell is effective. Yvonne Perez gets credit for props.
Want to see a perfect rendition of Singin' in the Rain? Stay home and watch the movie. Want to have to restrain yourself from jumping up out of your seat applauding dancing and dancers? Get thee to Players Performing Arts Center and see their production of Singin' in the Rain. Singin' in the Rain through February 4, 2018, at The Players Centre for Performing Arts, 838 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota FL. Box Office: 941-365-2494. For more information visit www.theplayers.org.
Cast (in order of appearance):