Back in the late Eighties, when a team of New York producers announced that a stage version of the classic 1952 film Singin' in the Rain was in the works, two questions crossed the minds of every prospective audience member: "How do you pull off the rain scene in a Broadway-sized theater?" and "Can anyone come close to filling Gene Kelly's dancing shoes?" Once theatergoers realized that the answers to those queries were, respectively, "Some technical whiz will figure it out" and "No," they bought their tickets and settled back in their seats to enjoy the theatrical version of one of Hollywood's most popular extravaganzas.
Which is precisely what theatergoers planning to attend the Arvada Center's production of the musical should do. Even though the local effort doesn't boast the elegance of Kelly's balletic athleticism or the sheer grandeur of Tinseltown's special effects, director Jeffrey Gallegos and company nonetheless manage to deliver a highly entertaining production--one in which much of the film's original choreography is replicated--that's always a pleasure to watch. And with a couple of exceptions, this show is also easy on the ears.
The Twenties-era story begins with the formation of the vaudeville team of Don Lockwood (Troy Rintala) and Cosmo Brown (Brian Kelly). After the song-and-dance act proves less than fulfilling for Don, the handsome hoofer makes his mark in Hollywood's silent film business performing alongside Monumental Pictures diva Lina Lamont (Beth Flynn). In due time, Don falls in love with a silver-throated starlet named Kathy Selden (Melissa Fahn). When the studio's producers decide to make talking pictures (in reality, the first talkie, The Jazz Singer, premiered in 1927), Don finagles Kathy a job serving as the unseen voice of Lina, whose successful career as a two-dimensional actress is imperiled due to her thick accent (which resembles that of a Brooklyn longshoreman). For the remainder of the frothy two-and-a-half-hour show, we're treated to a collection of musical numbers and filmed sequences that highlight the performers' considerable singing and dancing talents--punctuated, of course, by a fairly predictable (though always enjoyable) series of sight gags and jokes.
Leading the company is the superb Fahn, who delivers a confident, perfectly sung portrait of the idealistic showgirl. When Kathy auditions for studio executives with the song "You Are My Lucky Star," the moment is strangely lacking in the sort of anxiety you'd expect to feel for a fledgling performer in a make-or-break situation. Instead, you just hope the beautifully sung tune goes on long enough for Fahn to elicit the full spectrum of her character's bottomless charm. And as the sprightly number "Good Morning" attests, Fahn's also a polished dancer. Tapping her toes atop a portable bar that's just wide enough to hold Fahn and her two cohorts, the accomplished musical comedienne executes each step and leap with seemingly effortless precision. In fact, her achievements in Act One almost make you wish she'd taken on the leading role of Don, except that such a stroke of gender-bender casting would likely have created more complications than the script could accommodate (not to mention upset an audience otherwise gleefully awash in nostalgia).
As Cosmo, Kelly does a credible job mugging and cavorting in the role made famous by Donald O'Connor (a few opening-night problems with Kelly's body microphone detracted from his otherwise adequately sung portrayal). And despite the fact that Rintala's unsteady singing voice falters further when he attempts to navigate a few of Don's tricky modulations (he's a touch flat here and there), Rintala nevertheless deserves kudos for pulling off his many dance routines with aplomb, including an admirably staged rain sequence. Character actress Flynn is physically miscast as Lina (she's supposed to be a ravishing type whose charade as an actress is exposed when she has to speak actual lines of dialogue--proof that some things never change), but the local favorite still manages to craft a hilarious portrait of an obtuse egomaniac.
Individual achievements notwithstanding, though, the true stars of this production are the outstanding ensemble cast and top-notch design team, which combine to create a delightful world of art-as-artifice. And while a few audience members might question the legitimacy of serving up a theatricalized carbon copy of a beloved screen gem (the process typically works better the other way around), the current effort comes together in ways that are bound to leave a theatergoer's heart beating even stronger for the magic of old Broadway.
Singin' in the Rain, at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities (outdoor amphitheater), 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, through August 9, 431-3939.
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