Following a rainy Friday afternoon, it seemed sort of appropriate to attend a production of Singin’ in the Rain Friday night at the Manatee Players Riverfront Theatre. Definitely in the mood, you know.
And it was a fun show, although no stage production I’ve ever seen of it has been able to deliver the magic of the classic MGM screen version. That’s hardly surprising; Singin’ in the Rain was a pinnacle in many ways of that studio’s decades of making big glossy musicals, with lots of star power, terrific dancing and memorable songs.
It’s the dancing I’ll remember most from the Manatee Players production. It’s both reminiscent of certain unforgettable numbers form the film and yet with a flair of its own, thanks largely to choreographer Dewayne Barrett, who doubles as song-and-dance man Don Lockwood, whose career in movies is threatened with the coming of talkies.
Don’s not so bad, really; it’s his co-star, Lina Lamont (Kim Betts-Gingrich), who’s got a voice like fingernails on a chalkboard. Plus, she believes the studio publicity about the love affair between her and Don, even though it doesn’t really exist—particularly after Don meets young Kathy Seldon (Andrea Wright), who at first pretends not to know who he is but soon enough falls for him.
There’s not a whole lot more to the story, and one of the problems with the stage version is there’s really not much an of an Act II after that Act I closing rendition of the title song (which is very enjoyable). The Broadway Melody number feels thrown in to give the second half some oomph rather than for any narrative reason.
But audiences in general should be pleased with the performances of the leads and the frequently impressive dancing. Barrett’s footwork is stronger than his singing, but he’s likable as Don, and he and Jonah Wright work well together as a couple of vaudevillians gone Hollywood. Wright occasionally overdoes his facial expressions as the goofy sidekick Cosmo (he’s in full Jim Carrey mode much of the time), but he’s certainly got the physical comedy shtick down pat. Andrea Wright sings nicely and is up to the dance demands with the guys as Kathy, and Betts-Gingrich gets the annoying aspects of Lina right, without making her so grating we can’t stand to see her (something that occasionally has happened in other productions I’ve seen).
Throw in some nice costumes by Jean Boothby and strong direction from both musical leader Rick Bogner and director Rick Kerby, and you’ve got a worthwhile evening’s entertainment. Singin’ in the Rain continues through May 22; call 748-5875 or go to manateeplayers.com.