Photo: Jason Sullivan

Singin’ in the Rain

New Village Arts Theatre, San Diego

Written by:
Lynne Friedmann
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Pulling out all stops, New Village Arts has delivered an exuberant staging of “Singin’ in the Rain,” with a gifted cast that pays tribute to the mid-century MGM musical romance-comedy that starred Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor, while indelibly making this show all its own.

Adhering closely to the film’s storyline, dashing silent-screen leading man Don Lockwood (Anthony Michael Vacio) falls for talented newcomer Kathy Selden (Emma Nossal) but can’t publicly declare his love until he literally disengages himself from clinging leading lady Lina Lamont (Audrey Ward, in an incomparable performance) for whom he holds no affection. Lina, however, believes the faux romance stories between the screen idols, cooked up by the studio’s publicity department.

Meanwhile, studio head R.F. Simpson (Kiara Hudlin) and dyspeptic director Roscoe Dexter (Nick Siljander) are in crisis mode grappling with the industry’s full-speed transition from silent reels to talkies. Both Don and Lina immediately receive diction lessons in order to add box-office appeal to a half-finished silent swashbuckling drama. Of the two, Lina is the most vocally challenged and utterly hopeless dealing with nascent microphone technology even when it’s pinned to the bodice of her voluminous period wardrobe (all hail costume designer Amanda Quivey and wig designer Missy Bradstreet). The set, by scenic designer Kristianne Kurner, is a movie sound stage that doubles as a projection room with daily rushes shown on the studio’s brick back wall. Here projection designer Ethan Eldred and sound engineer Marcus Rico mimic the grainy texture and static “pops” of 1920s celluloid film that captures Lina’s hilarious defeat in the battle of the microphone. Genius!

A solution to save the film, careers and the studio itself comes from Don’s best friend Cosmo Brown (Xavier J. Bush, scene-stealer extraordinaire) during an all-night brainstorming session. Kathy agrees to record dialogue and songs to be dubbed over Lina’s screech-owl voice. But jealous Lina must never know. Of course, she finds out.

In addition to remarkable comedic chops, the stars and ensemble – Hunter Brown, Kaia Bugler, Rachel Ford, Max Lecanu-Fayet, Marcy Ledvinka, Ethan Marr, Stephanie Monis, Reid Moriarty, Oliver Pence, Cara Tafolla, and Kyle Young – deliver big time on some of the most engaging songs in movie history: “You Stepped Out of a Dream,” “All I Do is Dream of You,” “Moses Supposes,” “Good Morning” and, of course, the title song “Singin’ in the Rain.” The music is by Nina Gilbert and Korrie Yamoka; dance sequences by choreographer Katie Banville and Jenna Ingrassia-Knox are high octane and downright astonishing.

Be prepared for a surprise when raindrops appear.

by Lynne Friedmann

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