Drury Lane’s SINGING IN THE RAIN Is A Slickly Produced Machine

generic levitrak2-1-300×200.jpg” width=”300″ height=”200″ />Drury Lane’s newly mounted Singing In The Rain is easily one of the best produced and designed shows in the theatre’s history. The lighting, sets, costumes and film sequences are meticulously put together to make the stage version of the hit 1952 film musical glimmer on the proscenium. More than anything, Singing In The Rain is a sure fire way to keep their audience demographic bemused over the holiday season. The problem is, though Singing In The Rain is stellar in its production values, as a show there is not much there.

The film, of course, was a vehicle for Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds (who gets a cameo here) and Donald O’Connor, each iconic in their own right and who are instantly remembered for this film. Thus, when a project such as this makes its way to the stage, the actors are merely “plug-ins”, for their screen counterparts. Singing In The Rain is not the only time this has happened in the transition from film to stage, in fact it is normal and understandable. The stage vesions of Gigi, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Meet Me In St. Louis all suffer from the same problem where Hollywood-born musicals focus less on characters and more on the star they were written for. For a director, this pedigree limits the casting choices immensely.

Singing In The Rain is a pure Hollywood story where the talkies are taking over the silent era of film and the studios that are open to the transition will survive. The Dancing Cavalier is being shot as film stars Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont’s musical transition vehicle. Unfortunately for Ms. Lamont, not everyone’s voice is cut out for audio. Lockwood’s longtime dancing partner, Cosmo Brown comes with the idea to dub her voice (ala Marni Nixon) and with that, hilarity is suppose to ensue.

Singing In The Rain does contain some of the best remembered songs and production numbers of its generation with a book by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, lyrics by Arthur Freed, and music by Nacio Herb Brown. Along with the title song (which Drury Lane spent $80,000 retrofitting their plumbing system in order to stage), other staples include Good Morning, Make ‘Em Laugh, You Are My Lucky Star, Moses Supposes (Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance) and Broadway Rhythm.

Director Bill Jenkins has assembled an amiable case headed Broadway veteran Tony Yazbeck who has taken over the role of Don Lockwood from an injured Sean Palmer. Mr. Yazbeck does not disappoint with the title number and contains a beautiful baritone voice. Yazbeck is teamed with Jenny Guse and Matthew Crowle to round out the film’s trio. Of the three, it is Mr. Crowle who stands out in his role of Cosmo Brown as he is a naturally gifted hoofer who makes his moves seem effortless, and you can tell is having a blast on stage. Melissa Van Der Schyff’s Lila has great comic presence but she makes her role akin to Adelade in Guy’s & Dolls rather than a silent screen diva loosing her ‘divahood’.

Amber Mac’s chorography is quite stunning and always fun to watch. The actors dance with fervor and many times the dancing actually moves the slow moving plot along quicker than the dialogue. Set designer Kevin Depinet has created a superb Hollywood studio set for the action to take place on (I’m sure part of this set will come in handy for Norma Desmond to sing As If We Never Said Goodbye); and video designer Bobby Richards creates great snippets to catapult us back to the silent film area.

Singing In The Rain runs through at Drury Lane Oakbrook Theatre, 1000 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, IL, call 630-530-0111, www.drurylaneoakbrook.com, Tickets range from $35- $40 – $46; Performances are Wednesdays at 1:30 pm, Thursdays at 1:30 & 8 pm, Fridays at 8:30 pm, Saturdays at 5 & 8:30 pm, Sundays at 2 & 6 pm, running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission. For calendar information please visit www.theatreinchicago.com