SCERA’s production of “Singin’ in the Rain” is a solid run at a show that is very difficult to produce.
It began life as a movie, and a fondly remembered one, so it has big shoes to fill. But more problematic is the show’s structure. As a film, it could have a million scene changes; as a stage musical, that means trouble. Veteran local director Jerry Elison has his cast and crew working like beavers to get those sets moved around, but no matter how fast they are, the scene changes are just too long and too frequent. (Sometimes the lights are only up for two minutes before they’re down and everything’s in a flurry again.)
Overlooking the issues inherent in the show itself, this staging is quite entertaining. Daniel R. Aldous plays Don Lockwood, a silent-film star who, in 1927, finds himself grappling with the new “talkies.” He makes the transition well enough; his co-star (whom the studio is passing off as his real-life fiancee), Lina Lamont (Afton Ferguson), does not fare so well. Her speaking voice is terrible and she’s not the brightest star in the sky.
Fortunately, Don has become involved with stage actress Kathy Selden (Melinda Stailey), who speaks and sings quite beautifully. Much to the chagrin of a jealous Lina, the studio dubs Kathy’s voice over hers, and Lina just has to lip-sync.
Aldous is a better singer and dancer than he is an actor, though he’s likable regardless of what he’s doing. (He comes off as rather snotty in his first scenes with Kathy, yet still keeps audience sympathy.) His partnership with David Whitlock as crazy friend Cosmo is remarkable, particularly in the “Fit as a Fiddle” number, which has some truly impressive choreography (by Sunny Claitor). Whitlock shows great energy and skill in his “Make ‘Em Laugh” sequence, too.
Stailey is beautiful and strong as Kathy. As for Ferguson as Lina, many of the jokes about Lina’s awful voice are harmed by the fact that Ferguson is doing a voice that simply isn’t bad enough. The accent ranges from Brooklyn to Georgia, and should be a lot squeakier and more annoying to get the right comic effect.
Shining in smaller roles are Jeremy Young as the diction coach (the victim of Cosmo and Don’s rambunctious “Moses Supposes” bit), and Melissa Benson as a star-struck Hollywood reporter. The filmed sequences are extremely authentic-looking and impressive, too.
Between the time this was posted on the Daily Herald Web site and the time it was published in the newspaper, the SCERA told me they had cut several minutes from the show by streamlining the scene changes. I was able to add a statement to that effect in the newspaper. If it's true, it would increase the show's appeal quite a bit.