Singin’ in the Rain is a Delightful Revisit to A Glorious Feeling.
By Patrick Hurley
There are very few movie musicals that are so well-written, solidly structured and infused with such joy that a mere re-creation on stage almost seventy years later actually works. Singin’ In the Rain, playing now at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, is such a show.
Based entirely on the 1952 film, with nearly word-for-word dialogue, and step-by-step choreography- the most noticeably different being Make ‘em Laugh- this production digs deep into the joyful soul of the film and comes out mostly unscathed and actually entertaining because of it.
The story is exactly the same as the film. Hollywood stars Don Lockwood (Michael Starr) and Lina Lamont (A delightfully nasty Sara King), are silent movie royalty. But at the dawn of the “Talkies” they both must transition from silent to vocal stars, a task not so easy for either of them. Don enlists the help of his best friend and music arranger Cosmo Brown (Brandon Burks) and a young, bright actress he randomly meets one night and falls in love with named Kathy Selden (Kimberly Immanuel).
What these four young actors have to face is daunting. After all these parts were immortalized by Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Conner, and Jean Hagan who was nominated for an Oscar for the role of Lina. And while they all do their best to create their own versions of these characters, it is Sara King as Lina Lamont that seems most trapped by the overwhelming specificity of Ms. Hagan’s character. King is larger than life and does everything well, it just feels reductive and slightly mimetic, as if Lina was an actual person that this actress is bringing to life. The beauty of Ms. Hagan’s original performance is that it’s so broad and comical, yet she grounded it with a severity that made her human, and now it’s become iconic. The specificity in the script alone feels tailored to Ms. Hagan’s Lina and not at all open to much interpretation, so without a book writer and changes made to the script, it becomes an exercise in trying not to copy something that can really only be played one way. But kudos to Sara King for pulling it off and being a highlight of the show.
Director and Choreographer Spencer Liff goes for big and broad and anyone who is familiar with the movie knows that’s probably the right decision. Scenic Designer John Iacovelli likewise paints big brush strokes when needed and the cityscape that appears for the Singin’ in The Rain number is quite impressive. Another praiseworthy aspect of this production are the fabulous costumes, mostly worn by squeaky-voiced starlet Lina, costume designer Shon LeBlanc really hones in on the glitzy nature of the era, and there’s no shortage of bright colors and sparkles.
The entire cast seems enthusiastic and eager enough to dive head first into the familiar material and they all seem to find moments to sink their teeth in and just enjoy themselves. This makes the production feel much more effortless than it must be, thus enhancing the enjoyment of the audience, and allowing the material to rise above the production itself.
The choice to place a movie on stage with minimal changes and the same choreography is odd. I’m not sure I understand the creative satisfaction that can come from a re-make, and there is a diminished quality no matter how good the production is, it will never be as good as the movie that several critics call, “the best movie musical of all time.” And with all the references to cinema, we have to believe that the film is in the correct medium. It should be a film. It satirizes film, it uses cinematic devices to make a point about the power of cinematic storytelling. So this production is entertaining because it relies on nostalgia and has a pretty great script, thanks to the film, but it’s also slightly unbalanced because it’s in the wrong medium. So it’s a big and flashy night of frivolity, whereas the film had an alacrity and immediacy that made it an experience unlike any other. And though I enjoyed it thoroughly, I wanted to rush home and re-watch the film.
LA MIRADA THEATRE FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS And MCCOY RIGBY ENTERTAINMENT PRESENTS:
SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN
Screenplay by BETTY COMDEN and ADOLPH GREEN
Songs by NACIO HERB BROWN and ARTHUR FREED
Musical Direction by KEITH HARRISION
Directed and Choreographed by SPENCER LIFF
OPENS: SATURDAY, APRIL 20, 2019 at 8pm
and runs through SUNDAY, MAY 12.
PREVIEW: Friday, April 19 at 8pm
PERFORMANCES: Wednesdays & Thursdays at 7:30pm; Fridays at 8pm;
Saturdays at 2pm and 8pm; Sundays at 2pm.
There will be an Open-Captioned performance on Saturday, May 4 at 2pm
and an ASL-interpreted performance on Saturday, May 11 at 2pm.
Talkbacks with the cast and creative team will be on Wednesday, April 24 and
Wednesday, May 8.
LA MIRADA THEATRE FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS
14900 La Mirada Blvd. in La Mirada, CA 90638.
Arrive Early To Find Best Parking — It’s Free!
Tickets range from $20 – $94 (Prices subject to change)
$15 Student Tickets for the first 15 performances of the production.
For tickets, please call (562) 944-9801 or (714) 994-6310 or buy online at
http://www.lamiradatheatre.com . Student and Group discounts are available.