Story: Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont are big-time movie stars in Hollywood circa 1927. They’ve made numerous films together which have made their studio beaucoup bucks, and the studio fans the flames of fan adoration by encouraging a rumor of its stars' romance, something which is total fiction.
Unfortunately, diva Lina believes that nonsense even if Don knows better. That’s just the start of their problems, however, ‘cuz a technological revolution is bringing sound to the silver screen. It’s the advent of talkies, which doesn’t bode well for Lina and her nasal twang. Still, she’s a star and the studio does what it can to placate her.
When Don falls head over heels for a bright young ingenue named Kathy Selden, Lina has the girl fired after Kathy misses Don with a cream pie to the face at a Hollywood party and hits Lina instead. Don and his lifelong pal and cinema sidekick Cosmo Brown then search LA for the charming Kathy.
After finding her, Don comes up with a plan to help studio magnate R.F. Simpson and director Roscoe Dexter, who are horrified at Lina’s awful voice. What if Kathy sings and has her voice used instead of Lina’s, with the latter lip-synching to the ingenue’s mellifluous chords?
All seems well until the world premiere, where Lina pulls more shenanigans and takes the lion’s share of the audience’s hearty applause. But when her fans demand that she sing impromptu on stage, what exactly will she do? The talkies are a tough business.
Highlights: The Muny brings back one of Hollywood’s most legendary musicals in its theatrical form as part of the theater’s centennial celebration. It’s a wise choice, with Broadway star Corbin Bleu acting, singing and dancing to the hilt as the amiable Don Lockwood in this first-rate production.
Other Info: This marks the sixth time that The Muny has presented Singin’ in the Rain since its debut here in 1986. Based on the classic 1952 movie starring Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and an unknown at the time named Debbie Reynolds, the 1983 musical adaptation features songs by Nacio Brown and Arthur Freed as well as a book by Adolph Green and Betty Comden.
As Muny Artistic Director and Executive Producer Mike Isaacson points out in his program notes, the title tune was written in the late 1920s, approximately the same era in which the musical is set. It’s been sung many times by sundry artists, but the iconic performance by Kelly in the movie, twirling an umbrella while dancing around a lamppost, remains beloved, etched in the hearts of fans everywhere.
It’s no surprise that Singin’ in the Rain is the final number in Act I, a smart move given the water which cascades down onto the stage while Bleu gleefully dances away. The genial performer oozes charisma and stamps his own name on that signature number with abundant class and charm. It brings the fast and entertaining first act to a glorious end.
Bleu matches that effort, though, with an outstanding turn in the second act on the galvanizing Broadway Rhythm number dreamed up by Cosmo in Simpson’s office as a suitable ‘bridge’ for the film. This is where Rommy Sandhu’s choreography is accentuated with an electric and vivacious dance routine. It also provides an opportunity to showcase Tristan Rames’ sumptuous costumes.
Jeffrey Schecter delivers a pleasing performance as good ol’ Cosmo, lithe and limber himself on various bits including a tap dance with Bleu. Former Muny Kid and Muny Teen Berklea Going shows that she has what it takes to handle center stage as the determined and good-hearted Kathy.
Megan Sikora steals plenty of scenes as the screechy, vapid and thick-headed Lina, Jeff McCarthy fills the bill as studio chief Simpson and George Merrick makes a winning Muny debut as exasperated director Roscoe Dexter.
The talented ensemble includes fun interpretations by local performers Debby Lennon as fawning interviewer Dora Bailey, Gary Glasgow as a prim and proper diction specialist hired to shepherd Don and Cosmo into talkies and Patrick Blindauer as a frustrated publicist.
Director Marc Bruni keeps this version of Singin’ cheerful and amusing throughout as he coaxes winning performances from his able cast. He also takes advantage of Paul Tate dePoo III’s set design, which meshes with the video designed by Greg Emetaz for an atmospheric and amusing combination of silent films on a background screen, a colorful “Hollywood” board as a backdrop and other scene embellishments.
Ben Whiteley’s musical direction delivers a lush and luxurious sound from his musicians for the enjoyable score, John Shivers & David Patridge provide an amusing sound design, Leah J. Loukas adds a wig design to match the costumes and Nathan W. Scheuer illuminates the set with a rainbow of colorful lighting.
A good time is had by all, especially when the only rain on stage is fabricated and not the real deal from Mother Nature. This Singin’ in the Rain is a joyful sound, indeed.
Musical: Singin’ in the Rain
Company: The Muny
Venue: The Muny in Forest Park
Dates: Through July 3
Tickets: Free to $100; contact 314-534-1111 or metrotix.com
Rating: A 4.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.
Photos courtesy of Phillip Hamer and Eric Woolsey