Review: SINGING IN THE RAIN at Ogunquit Playhouse

Ogunquit Playhouse Weathers Its 91st Season Opening With Singing in the Rain

By: Jun. 20, 2023
Review: SINGING IN THE RAIN at Ogunquit Playhouse
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Review: SINGING IN THE RAIN at Ogunquit Playhouse The Ogunquit Playhouse doesn’t mess with success as they present the stage version of Singing in the Rain as the opener to its 91st successful season at its seacoast location.

It is a grand musical portraying every element of the Hollywood 1920s era. There are dazzling costumes, big sets that fit every corner of the stage, full blown musical numbers, and dancing ability galore played against the backdrop of boy meets girl and, yes, they fall in love.   

While entering the theater, you can’t help but think of the movie stars that made the film version a success. Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor were established stars in the film playing alongside a 19-year-old newcomer, Debbie Reynolds.  The stage show mirrors the 1952 movie hit in just about every way, making the production very recognizable to most audiences.

Silent film icon, Don Lockwood (Max Clayton) is Hollywood’s darling, making movie hits with the blond bombshell, Lena Lamont (Kate Loprest). Though their string of hits oddly resembles each other with just a variation in costuming and swashbuckling routines, they hold court as the gods of silent films.  

But Hollywood is abuzz with the roll out of The Jazz Singer, the first talkie film to hit the theaters. In the show, the wonders of the new technology are introduced in a brief black and white talkie with onscreen talent provided by Ogunquit Playhouse Executive Artistic Director, Brad Kenny. Usually relegated to the preshow chatter from the stage, it is delightful to see Kenny on the big screen.

Lockwood is a capable straight man to his longtime vaudeville cohort, Cosmo Brown (Christian Probst), a man born to create zinging one liners.

And Lockwood’s love interest is a Hollywood unknown, Kathy Selden, (Chiara Trentalange) a struggling chorus girl, who by chance meets the famed star, and ends up saving the day bringing a happily ever after ending to the musical.

There’s only one problem for the stars in moving from silent films to talkies. Lena’s real speaking voice is like fingernails on a chalkboard and she’s clueless to using the strange new technology—a microphone—while filming.  The show brings one plan after another to save a silent film and to make it a musical, all without using Lena’ voice.

In the lead roles, Clayton and Trentalange certainly know their craft and can sing and dance with the best of them. Clayton is a spirited performer fresh from understudying for Hugh Jackman in the Broadway production of The Music Man. He’s vocally smooth in “You Stepped Out of a Dream” and the ultimate entertainer in the show stopping “Singing in the Rain” number where it rains onstage.  He impishly takes delight in splashing the first few rows of theater goers who are given rain gear to wear before the show.

As for Trentalange as Kathy, she plays the part well, but I wanted to see more of the bright eyed, ingenue perkiness that the part demands with her journey from an aspiring performer to celebrated star. And while she and Clayton were very enjoyable to watch, there was just a bit of a spark missing between them in this opening night performance.

As for Prost and Loprest in the secondary leads, this duo steals the show.

Probst is Donald O’Connor reincarnated. He’s funny and gifted with the skill of physical comedy. His “Make ‘Em Laugh” number is one amazing pratfall after another. He and Clayton brighten the stage and  work particularly well in their number, “Moses Supposes.”  

Loprest is phenomenal as she milks every bit of zaniness as Lina Lamont with her over blown ego and clueless demeanor. She’s brilliant in her solo, “What’s Wrong with Me,” even improvising a line or two to barbs from the audience.

There are gems of performances in the bit parts of the production.  Well casted are Lianne Marie Dobbs as a star swooning red-carpet reporter, Lance Roberts as a blow hard studio exec, Calvin L’Mont Cooper as a delightfully delicious and didactically directed diction coach.

And like so many Ogunquit Playhouse shows, the ensemble performers are the unsung heroes of the production. They sing and dance every number with gusto until they are out of breath. Then, it’s a quick costume change to come out and do it all over again in another number. It is a great touch to have the ensemble end the show by singing in the rain, literally.

The set for the show is amazing. There’s an extraordinary piece of artwork with depth perception trickery that makes the Ogunquit stage seem a mile long thanks to scenic design by Andy Walmsley. There’s stunning lighting design by Richard Latta and Dustin Cross provides lush costumes from the Golden Age of Hollywood and does a cute job of dressing almost the entire cast in yellow hat and coat rain gear. Projection design by John Narun gives wonderful glimpses of the early days of cinema.

Kristyn Pope’s choreography honors the dancing from the film while incorporating some new directions. Director, Jayme McDaniel shows an exceptional flair of keeping a spellbinding pace that doesn’t feel anything like the 2 hours and 45 minutes it takes to view the production, including an exceptionally long opening night intermission of close to 25 minutes.

Given the recent weather in Maine that has blessed the Pine Tree State with rain in the last 16 out of 19 days, Singing in the Rain is a wonderful afternoon or evening of a grand Hollywood musical at its best.

Reviewer’s Note: There’s a special one-time performance of Gene Kelly: The Legacy set for the Ogunquit Playhouse on Sunday, June 25 at 7:30 PM.  For tickets

In this unique, live one-woman show that has been described as “mesmerizing,” Patricia Ward Kelly—his wife and biographer—gives us an intimate look into the life of the Hollywood legend. Taking audiences behind the scenes, she presents an intimate portrait of this innovative artist who gave us such iconic works as An American in Paris and Singin’ in the Rain.

Using brilliant film clips, previously unreleased audio recordings, personal keepsakes, and stories he shared with her over their decade together, Patricia Kelly guides us on an unforgettable journey into the life and heart of the man who changed the look of dance on film and became one of the world’s most beloved stars.




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