Sunday, November 12, 2006

Singing in the Rain (Carousel Dinner Theatre)

The sun almost shines at SINGING IN THE RAIN at Carousel

A recent survey revealed that the five most liked movie musicals are ‘CHICAGO,’ ‘WEST SIDE STORY,’ ‘THE SOUND OF MUSIC,’ ‘THE WIZARD OF OZ,’ and ‘SINGING IN THE RAIN.’ The first three were original plays which transformed into cinematic form. The latter two were transformed from the silver screen to the stage. While Oz is an enchanting story with lots of societal implications, Rain is a piece of escapism that was brought to fame because of the wonderful performances of Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds and Gene Kelly.

The story is based at a time when Hollywood was making the transition from silent films to talkies. Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont are the king and queen of the silent screen. (Think Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. and Mary Pickford.) Unfortunately, after the ‘JAZZ SINGER’ became a hit, the day of the silent film was gone. Lamont, a dumb blond with a squealing voice, can’t make the transition, so an idea is hatched to have the charming and vocally proficient Kathy Seldon lip-sinc for her. As happens in feel-good musicals, all turns out well as Lamont is revealed for what she is, and Seldon winds up with stardom and Lockwood.

Macio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed’s musical score is filled with audience pleasers including “Fit as a Fiddle,” “You Stepped out of a Dream,” “You Were Meant for Me,” “Good Morning,” and “Would You.”

Because of a slightness of the Betty Comden and Adolph Green plot, the stage version, which closely follows the movie story line, must have three super talents to pull it off. The Carousel Dinner Theatre production does have two of the necessary three. Amanda Rose is pretty, charming and gifted. Her Kathy is delightful. Richard Strimer is wonderful as Cosmo, the Donald O’Connor character. He sings, dances and clowns well. His only clunker is the usually delightful “Make “Em Laugh’ which fails to amuse. It isn’t his fault, he gives his all, but the segment is poorly conceived by director/choreographer Marc Robbin.

The missing performance element is the character of Don Lockwood, the Gene Kelly role. This is a case of miscasting. Curt Dale Clark doesn’t physically look like nor does he effectively act the role of the handsome and charming swashbuckler. He has an adequate singing voice and his dancing leaves much to be desired. In comparison to Strimer, who lights up the stage, the chunky Clark barely lifts his feet. In the usually wonderful “Singin’ in the Rain” number he spends most of his time splashing the audience with water. None of the Gene Kelly magic here.

Besides the performances of Strimer and Rose, the Carousel show does have many other positives. Rain, yes real rain, falls on the stage several times. The patrons in the first several rows have been given slickers so they don’t get totally soaked. The wet gimmick is a sure audience pleaser.

In addition, Barbara Helms is wonderfully obnoxious as the scheming Lina Lamont and Dominic Sheahan-Stahl displays a fine voice in “You Are My Lucky Star.” The singing and dancing choruses are fine.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Carousel’s ‘SINGING IN THE RAIN’ has enough laughs and gimmicks to please most audience members. Too bad for the miscasting of the lead male role. With the right person in that part, this could have been a total winning production.