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Review: SINGIN' IN THE RAIN at The Phoenix Theatre Company

Now showing through April 3, 2022

Review: SINGIN' IN THE RAIN at The Phoenix Theatre Company

BWW Review: Singin' in the Rain

I have struggled to write this review. Not because the show is bad, but because it is hard to do justice to a show that has such a fantastic predecessor. Singin' in the Rain is one of my all-time favorite films and musicals. I also never want to discount the work that goes into putting on a show, because I know first-hand how difficult it is and the work it requires. I have said it before, but it feels good to sit in an audience again. I went into the evening expecting to be charmed and hoping for an escape, but I left this show feeling dissatisfied.

The scenic design by Robert Kovach is gorgeous and there are some moving set pieces that are innovative and surprising. The costumes are splendid in their complexity. Lena Lamont has some of the best costumes I have ever seen on stage. CeCe Sickler did a phenomenal job dressing the entire cast to fit the time period and allow the actors to use the costumes to their advantage. Don Lockwood's suits are especially snazzy. The hair and makeup also fit right in with the costumes and the bright and cheery nature of the set. Kelly Yurko is responsible for the Hair and Makeup Design. The Lighting Design was created by Daniel Davisson and Dave Temby created the Sound Design. There were a couple of times where the mics cut out during the performance, but they came right back on so no important information was missed.

It was nice to hear a live band. The music of Singin' in the Rain is simple and timeless, so hearing the Orchestra play the overture was especially thrilling. Led by Jeff Kennedy, the Orchestra is phenomenal. They also get a nice shout out in the curtain call and I enjoyed seeing the musicians backstage.

Michael Starr plays Don Lockwood. I wanted more from Starr than a version of Gene Kelly. I felt like the chemistry between Lockwood and Cosmo was fine, but nothing magical. I also didn't believe he was that into Kathy. Maybe it was because it was preview night, but I didn't get the romance I hoped from Don and Kathy. Starr is a skilled dancer and I was impressed with the tap numbers and the expertise required for "Singin' in the Rain", but I didn't get the elation or the unbridled excitement of why Lockwood is singing in the rain.

As Cosmo, Blake Patrick Spellacy, nailed all the dance moves. He is also a skilled tapper, but "Make 'em Laugh" was basically the same choreography from the movie. He does it well, but I had hoped to see a unique presentation of this classic scene, and was left wanting. Spellacy has great comic timing and his stamina is impressive. Without a doubt, he has the most physically challenging role.

I admit that I am biased when it comes to Kathy Selden. I have loved Debbie Reynolds all my life and anyone would have a hard time impressing me in this role. Elyssa Blonder is a fantastic dancer, and her singing voice is adequate, but the flair and obstinance of Kathy was missing. It could also have been preview nerves, but Kathy is supposed to be a firecracker that flips Don's whole world upside down and I felt that was missing.

Lena Lamont is not supposed to be likeable. She is a diva through and through and Emily Mohney nails it. I appreciated that she made her voice as annoying as possible, but didn't copy Jean Hagen's mannerisms or affectations. Mohney deservedly got the biggest laughs and her rendition of "What is Wrong With Me" was a highlight of the evening. It could not have been easy to navigate the stage in those costumes either, so props to Mohney for making it look easy.

The supporting roles are well cast. Sally Jo Bannow plays Dora Bailey, Mrs. Dinsmore, and several other ensemble roles. She has a natural stage presence and clearly enjoys being in this show. Geoff Belliston plays Roscoe Dexter, the director, and yells a bit much for my taste. I understand the director needing to have a strong presence, but yelling is not my favorite way to portray this. D. Scott Withers play R.F. Simpson, the head of the studio. Simpson clearly panders to his actors, but I wish Withers had given Simpson a bit more backbone. Simpson is a powerful man and I felt Withers simpered before Lamont too much for the stature of his position.

The ensemble in this show is wonderful. The voices blend well together and their presence on stage makes the dance numbers shine. My favorite ensemble number is "Broadway Melody" in the second act. This extended scene had unique choreography and showcased the talent of the whole cast. The electricity in this scene and the energy of the music makes this a standout number. This is what I had hoped to see the entire show and was glad to see the ensemble showcased.

Despite my criticism of the show, I think this is a worthwhile production to see. I was disappointed to see a lot of the movie played out on stage, but I love the movie and the story is fun. When I go to the theater, I want to see how the creative team and the actors can tell the same story but from a different lens and add their distinctive touches. Directed by Jeff Whiting, with Music Direction by Jeff Kennedy, and choreographed by Lauran Stanis, Singin' in the Rain runs through April 3, 2022 at Phoenix Theatre. You can buy tickets here. Masks are not mandated at Phoenix Theatre, but are strongly recommended. You can also view the special performance calendar for information on mask and vaccine required and ASL/Audio Describe night performances.

Photo Credit: Reg Madison Photography

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February 6, 2022

Don Lockwood and Lena Lamont are the most famous silent movie stars of their time. When audiences start clamoring for talkies, Don, Cosmo, the Studio, and Don's new lady love, Kathy, have to get creative to ensure the movie is a success because Lena doesn't have the voice for the talkies.