Since Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds, and Jean Hagen starred in the winsome 1952 film, “Singin’ in the Rain,” the stage production, which debuted in 1985, and is similarly based on the screenplay by Adolph Green and Betty Comden, with music by Nacio Herb Brown and lyrics by Arthur Freed, has aimed to recapture the original’s exuberance.
The quasi-realistic narrative, which is based on the landmark transition between silent films and talking pictures – as a result of “The Jazz Singer” (1927) – sees Hollywood’s onscreen celebrated couple, and Monumental Studios’ Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont, break up as a commercial force because the latter has an ear-piercing shrill that is anathema to sound. This becomes apparent when it comes time to film “The Dueling Cavalier” (then later “The Dancing Cavalier”). Integral to the story are Lockwood’s best pal and songwriter, Cosmo Brown, and Kathy Selden, a stage performer, who wins Lockwood’s heart and is the key to solving the Lamont dilemma.
The Candlelight Pavilion in Claremont, CA, has effectively retold this classic romantic comedy – which can be experienced through June 2nd – with an abundance of enthusiasm, laugh-out-loud moments, and an engaging charm amid delicious cuisine that sates the appetite as much as the production fulfills the desire to be entertained.
DJ Gray, the director and choreographer, has engagingly paced the musical’s comedy, tenderness, and even the plethora of rousing tap dancing and synchronized movements, in such a way that the show’s momentum consistently increases with each number. Douglas Austin has provided a musical direction that honors the movie, while allowing the cast to put their own mark on the vintage songs. Furthermore, Jonathan Daroca’s striking lighting design illuminates Mitch Gill’s wondrous set, which includes scenic backdrops, the incorporation of a projection screen with superb reenactments throughout, and, not to mention, a torrent of rain during the crowd-pleasing and surreal rendition of the title song, “Singin’ in the Rain.”
Wesley Alfvin plays Don Lockwood with appreciable class and dignity, inclusive of a crooning voice in the vein of the golden era that the musical represents. Alfvin punctuates his songs with meaning, appropriately taking time with each word, which is notable from the outset when he meets Colette Peters’ Kathy Selden on a bench and sings “You Stepped Out of a Dream.” This touching number is aided by the ensemble members, who stay still as a beautiful tableau before dancing in pairs.
Just as he can be dramatically sincere, Alfvin can likewise dance with the best of them during songs like “Fit as a Fiddle” (with Andrew J. Koslow’s Cosmo Brown), wherein fiddles are ingeniously used as yo-yos at one point, and the bows are synchronously thrown between the legs. The same can also be said for “Moses Supposes,” when Alfvin (again with Koslow) tap dances on nearly every furniture piece, never relenting in his energy as he effortlessly goes from the top of a table to a chair. That said, Alfvin’s greatest shining moment happens as he magically glides, spins, and famously swings from the lamppost, with umbrella in hand, in the midst of “Singin’ in the Rain,” as gets soaked under a heavy cascade of rain, to the shrieking delight of the audience, some of whom (in the front row) also get sprayed.
Colette Peters makes for an appealing Kathy Selden, who stands up for herself and won’t allow her truth to be denied. Peters also has a lilting voice that is poignant and genuinely emotive. For instance, during “You Were Meant for Me” (the scene preceding it impressively replicates a soundstage with knob-turning gadgetry) and “Would You?”, Peters conveys a wholesomeness with each lyric that very much endears her character to the audience, who can’t wait to see Selden get her much-deserved recognition in lieu of the self-absorbed Lina Lamont. Needless to say, Peters can be as enthusiastically fun as a graceful mover, as she is sweet, in songs such as “Good Morning,” when she flaps, time-steps, kick-ball-changes, and intones glowingly alongside Alfvin and Koslow.
Andrew J. Koslow is a tremendous Cosmo Brown, who not only looks the part, but hits a home-run with the triple-threat skills required of the role. In addition to being an excellent tap dancer and someone who sustains his persona’s undeterred happiness and verve, Koslow actually plays the piano on a few occasions, most memorably during the first half of “You Are My Lucky Star,” when he provides the accompaniment for Peters’ vocals. Without question, however, where Koslow makes an indelible mark is with his comic timing and lightheartedness, which not only sets the tone in “Moses Supposes,” and in “The Broadway Ballet” (which dazzlingly also features a New York skyline and a curtain of blue tinsel) but in his own solo piece, “Make ‘Em Laugh.” Koslow cues up fantastic facial expressions, while doing backflips, and slapsticking his way out of a tin bucket, and through a brick wall, in a masterful demonstration of showmanship and stage awareness.
Last, but not least, of the principal performers is Krista Curry, who makes for the most love-to-dislike and amazingly annoying Lina Lamont imaginable. The high-pitched squeal Curry uses is paradoxically a joy to listen to for how uncannily nails-on-a-chalkboard-esque it is. Curry does a magnificent job of somehow varying her pitch even more so for comedic effect (e.g., “What’s Wrong With Me?”) and supplementing her character’s obliviousness with traits that yield much hilarity in a multitude of scenes. These include when Lamont is, for example, being trained to use “round tones” by Angela Rose Pierson’s enjoyable Dinsmore (Pierson also gives a lively performance as Dora, the media host/announcer), and when trying, but spectacularly failing, to adapt to the advent of audio in film.
Of course, there is no better illustration of Lamont’s zany awkwardness than the infamous scene when she is unable to speak into any microphone – on her person or one strategically placed in a plant – which is uproariously actualized by Curry’s on-point non-verbals, as well as the funny irascibility of Brandon Kallen’s Director Rosco Dexter. The juxtaposition, moreover, between John Nisbet’s portrayal of the respectable but amenable studio head, R.F. Simpson, and Curry’s “dumb or something” Lamont, makes for amusing and memorable exchanges.
All in all, the Candlelight Pavilion’s production of “Singin’ in the Rain” is everything one would hope for from a musical, which does its revered 1952-film predecessor a terrific justice. It is chock-full of larger-than-life and ingenious performances from the principals and ensemble, who entertain with non-stop dancing amid remarkable stage effects. Attendees are guaranteed to smile, laugh heartily at the jokes, and have a joyous time from the first number to the finale, when the entire cast — clad in yellow raincoats — is swinging, swivelling, opening, and even closing their umbrellas in perfect harmony.
For more information about “Singin’ in the Rain” at the Candlelight Pavilion, please visit candlelightpavilion.com