A review of the stage version of the classic musical, full of singing, dancing and real rain. At Village Theatre in Issaquah through Dec. 31.
Feeling low? There may be no better tonic in all of popular entertainment than the Freed Unit movie musicals, produced by Arthur Freed at MGM in the ’40s and ’50s, and featuring some of American cinema’s greatest talents behind and in front of the camera: Vincente Minnelli, Stanley Donen, Judy Garland, Cyd Charisse, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire.
Though films like “The Band Wagon” and “It’s Always Fair Weather” are certainly its equal (if not better), “Singin’ in the Rain” is the unquestionable crown jewel of that two-decade run, a film so beloved, its dances, songs and jokes are likely permanently impressed upon the brain of nearly every musical-lover.
Is it fair to bring all that up when discussing the stage production? Maybe not. But the acceptance that anything on stage will never live up to the perfect alchemy of the film can be freeing.
‘Singin’ in the Rain’
by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. With songs by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed. Through Dec. 31, Francis J. Gaudette Theatre, 303 Front St. N., Issaquah; $35-$78 (425-392-2202 or villagetheatre.org), and Jan. 6-29, Everett Performing Arts Center, 2710 Wetmore Ave., Everett; $38-$73 (425-257-8600).
Village Theatre’s staging of “Singin’ in the Rain,” directed by artistic director Steve Tomkins, has some laborious moments, but is largely delightful, especially during its rapturous dance sequences, choreographed with an eye toward subtly tweaking Kelly and Donen’s style by Katy Tabb.
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This production hews closer to later revivals than the 1985 Broadway production, which means some good — the inclusion of the dreamy, steamy “Broadway Melody” ballet, the best scene on both stage and screen — and some not so good — Lina Lamont’s not-in-the-movie lament “What’s Wrong With Me?” oversells a joke in garish fashion.
John David Scott is an effortlessly lithe Don Lockwood — think more slinky Astaire than kinetic Kelly — and a perfectly cast Jessica Skerritt elevates a screech to high art as the vocally challenged Lamont.
Lockwood and Lamont are the silent-film power duo whose careers are threatened by the advent of the talkies. He can’t act; she can’t act, sing or even speak without cracking glass.
Along with the woman he’s falling for, aspiring actress Kathy Selden (Mallory King, showing off a lovely voice), and his pal Cosmo Brown (Gabriel Corey, whose rubber-faced mugging doesn’t always pay off comically), Don enacts a plan to secretly dub Lina’s voice with Kathy’s to save their first talking picture.
Village’s production makes good use of pre-filmed segments that show Lockwood and Lamont’s glory days as silent film stars and their struggles adapting to the new sound technology. If the mini-films don’t quite feature a convincing facsimile of silent-film grammar, at least they’re plenty amusing.
Betty Comden and Adolph Green’s somewhat episodic script offers up plenty of memorable parts, and director Tomkins has stacked them with a cast of ringers — longtime Village favorites who don’t disappoint here.
Bobbi Kotula does funny double-duty as the absurdly breathless radio host Dora Bailey and stern vocal coach Phoebe Dinsmore.
Jeff Steitzer as studio boss R.F. Simpson and Ty Willis as director Roscoe Dexter duel for the top spot in an incredulity competition, each one seemingly on the verge of tearing his hair out due to others’ incompetence.
Greg McCormick Allen evolves from mirthless diction coach to ebullient tap partner over the course of a single number, the deservedly treasured “Moses Supposes,” featuring Scott and Corey alongside Allen.
Also impressive: single-scene standouts Ethan Carpenter with a dulcet rendition of “Beautiful Girl” and Pamela Turpen, whose dancing sizzles in “The Broadway Melody” ballet.
And then there’s the show’s title number, famously accompanied by “real” rain. Dumping gallons of water onto your stage is surely a sign of an adventurous theater, and there’s something hypnotic about watching the drops stream off Scott’s umbrella as he darts across the stage. It may not replicate the movie’s magic, but it has a brand of its own.