That was the overall reaction of the audience to a recent performance of Singin’ in the Rain, currently in production at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport.
The cast and crew were spectacular. That’s no small feat when it comes to embarking upon a staged version of the iconic 1952 movie musical, which starred Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor.
The Engeman production has its own special razzle dazzle, though. Its exceptional cast, rousing song and dance numbers, beautiful costumes and wonderful special effects, came together perfectly under the expert guidance of director/choreographer, Drew Humphrey. Humphrey nipped in the bud any comparisons that could crop up between his production and the legendary film’s by apparently directing his cast not to imitate the stars of the movie, but to put their own individualized stamp on their roles.
The performances soared.
The play’s storyline is the same as the Betty Comden and Adolph Green screenplay. It focuses — with laser beam humor — on the history of Hollywood’s transformation from silent pictures to “Talkies” during mid-1920s. It’s a love story, as well. One that smacks of old-fashioned innocence and charm.
Leading man Don Lockwood (played oh, so endearingly by Danny Gardner) and his leading lady, Lina Lamont (Emily Stockdale, a beauty with impeccable comic timing) are silent screen superstars. America can’t get enough of them. The gossip columnists have created a love story around the two, but in reality, Don can’t stand Lina. She, however, refuses to believe that.
There’s another issue, too. When their studio boss, R.F. Simpson (the solid character actor Leer Leary) realizes the future belongs to talking pictures, he decides to take the plunge and bring his leading man and lady with him. How could this venture fail? After all, Don is a great song and dance man, and his speaking voice should transfer perfectly to film.
But, Lina? She may be gorgeous, but oh, that horrible voice! Her nasally, New Yawk accented screech, won’t be music to audiences’ ears. What will they do?
It’s Don and his best friend, lovable Cosmo Brown, (portrayed wonderfully by Brian Shepard) to the rescue. They’ll have spunky, actress, Kathy Selden (a delightful girl next door type, convincingly played by Tessa Grady) dub Lina’s voice. Unbeknownst to Lina, of course.
It can’t fail. Or, can it?
Naturally, love develops between Kathy and Don. And, when Lina gets wind of that romance, as well as of her voice being dubbed, the sparks fly.
While this play is chock full of splendid song and dance routines, none is as powerful as Gardner’s spectacular rendition of the show’s title song, Singin’ in the Rain. He brought the house down at the end of Act One with his joyful performance. And, yes, it really rained down on him, thanks to a collaborative effort between the show’s scenic designer, David L. Arsenault and the theater’s technical director, Timothy Moran.
A standing ovation, ensued. Followed by another, for the stage hands who mopped up the puddles during intermission.
Whatever you do, don’t miss this show.
The John W. Engeman Theater is located at 250 Main Street, Northport, NY 11768. Telephone: 631-261-2900 website: http://www.EngemanTheater.com