Silent film stars Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont are America’s sweethearts. Lina is sweet on Don, but he merely tolerates her. Don falls for a budding young actress named Kathy Selden who has earned the ire of Lina. Their studio decides to make a talkie which morphs into a musical. Difficulties arise when Kathy is selected to overdub Lina’s grating voice. Lina decides to ground Kathy’s career to a halt as a result. Will her machinations succeed? Find out in Singin’ in the Rain, currently playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.
If you like musicals with lavish dance numbers and memorable songs then this is the show for you. Betty Comden and Adolph Green did a superlative job transcribing this classic movie to the stage. They managed to retain the entirety of the original tale with very few changes and add a bit of that something extra by adding a song and dance number after every section of the story. Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed have written a nice little score peppered with snappy, loving, and upbeat tunes.
Kimberly Faith Hickman once again infuses a show with some of her inimitable directing magic. She hits all of the show’s beats. Her staging is precise. Her actors spot on. The singing is on point. More importantly, she just makes the show fun.
Kudos to a strong supporting cast who add the little touches that breathe vital reality into this world. Some memorable featured performances include Mary Trecek in a humorous turn as Lina Lamont’s diction coach; Jason DeLong who shows he’s got acting chops to match his talented feet as Don Lockwood’s diction coach; Don Harris as Roscoe Dexter, a director struggling to transition to talkies; and Boston Reid who shines with his golden tenor voice singing “Beautiful Girls”.
Nate Wasson is truly a triple threat as Don Lockwood. He can sing, dance, and act with an ease and naturalness that seems to be instinctive. Wasson has a real knack for making you feel right along with Lockwood. When he’s happy, you’re happy. When he’s sad, you’re sad. Wasson gives Lockwood a needed likability and sensitivity and comes across as a regular guy who just happened to make it very, very big.
And Gene Kelly can eat his heart out when it comes to Wasson’s singing and dancing. Wasson’s fabulous tenor will grace your ears with sweet tunes such as “You Stepped Out of a Dream”, humorous ones like “Moses Supposes” (a personal favorite), and, of course, the iconic title song. And his feet will keep you clapping as he skillfully taps his way into your heart in “Good Morning” and his solo work in “Singin’ in the Rain” which is rendered more difficult as he dances in an honest to goodness downpour.
Tayler Plank brings a sweetness and confidence to the role of Kathy Selden. She plays a little coy with Don in the beginning as she poo-poohs film acting and pretends not to really be aware of his fame until they meet again at a party. Later they truly bond when she becomes a contract player at Monumental Studios.
Ms Plank possesses a glorious soprano and delighted the audience all night with numbers such as “Would You?” and “You are My Lucky Star”. She also does some impressive hoofing of her own in “Good Morning” and “All I Do is Dream of You”.
J. Isaiah Smith is definitely the man to watch with a mind blowing turn as Cosmo Brown. Smith has unteachable timing as the joke a minute songwriter and his rubbery face is ideal for comic acting with the wide variety of expressions he was able to conjure, each well suited to the moment. Seldom have I seen such an athletic dancer as Smith especially with his jaw dropping solo in “Make ‘Em Laugh” where he leaps all around as well as on and off the stage.
Cathy Hirsch gives an award caliber performance as Lina Lamont. She nailed her character to the floor with a whiny, vacuous, New York accented voice that will delightfully grate on your ears. Ms Hirsch is a primo villain as she is vengeful, egotistical, and just plain old nasty. But I really tip my hat to her on her solo performance in “What’s Wrong with Me?” as she managed to retain that screechy off-key voice while somehow managing to stay on-key at the same time.
Jim Boggess and his orchestra once again fail at failing with yet another brilliantly performed score. Roxanne Nielsen returns to the Playhouse to add another laurel to her long list of legendary pieces of choreography, especially with the work done by the three leads. Lindsay Pape’s costumes evoke a sense of 1920s elegance with double breasted suits and gorgeous gowns. Jim Othuse’s sets will take you from Don’s apartment to Grauman’s Chinese Theater to a certain memorable rainy street. The OnPxl team of Matt Bross & Chad Eacker provide some impressive special effects especially with a stunning replication of old time silent films and talkies. Tim Burkhart and John Gibilisco team up to make some impressive sounds especially the foibles of recording sound movies for the first time.
The best way to sum up this show is to borrow from the title song:
They’re singin’ in the rain.
Just singin’ in the rain.
What a glorious feelin’.
You’ll be happy again.
Everyone in the place
Have a smile on your face.
As they’re singin’ and dancin’ in the rain.
Singin’ in the Rain plays at the Omaha Playhouse through June 24. Showtimes are Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets cost $42 for adults and $25 for students. Wednesday night shows are $32 for adults and $20 for students. For tickets call 402-553-0800 or visit www.omahaplayhouse.com or www.ticketomaha.com. The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.