C-R’s production of “Singin’ in the Rain” has much to recommend it. The ensemble tapping is superlative with a finale to die for. The Technicolor costumes are indeed “eye-candy” as pointed out in the curtain speech by director Jim Charles. It must be said, however, that the show has more than a few technical problems. Some of those may be put to opening night glitches, others, it pains me to say, will not be solved during the run of the show.
The story, as you may know, is as timeless as old “Hollywoodland” itself. Don Lockwood (Freddie Kimmel) and Lina Lamont (Lori Ann Freda) are superstars of the silent screen. They’ve made nine blockbuster pictures together. Lockwood is a swashbuckling manly hero to his fans and Lamont is, of course, at least according to the fan magazines, a “shimmering star in the firmament.”
But “talkies” are sweeping the nation. Lockwood’s OK, but Lamont has a voice that makes scratching your fingernails on a blackboard seem like a pleasant experience. Plus, the two romantic stars actually hate each other.
On the way to a party, Lockwood “cute-meets” an aspiring ingénue, Kathy Seldon (Kristen Michelle Bussiere) and they fall in love. Seldon is not only movie star beautiful (and Bussiere is indeed that) but, unlike Lamont, she has real talent. When Lamont’s elocution lessons fail to improve her diction, it is decided that Seldon will become her voice in the next picture. Of course, Seldon has her own career to consider, so she will be given full screen credit as the voice of the star. But, as you may imagine, Lamont will have something to say about that.
Some of the funniest scenes in the show have to do with the horrors of the new technology, such as Lamont saying her lines on screen (into a bush where the microphone is planted). But, alas, many of these scenes are marred by tumbling scenery and a movie screen that just won’t behave. One audience member cried out spontaneously, “Don’t do that now,” when a glaring error was about to be made. Somebody backstage must have heard her as the error was immediately corrected.
The choreography (Christopher George Patterson) attempts to come as close to that of the celebrated film on which the play is based, as in the number “Make ’em Laugh,” performed by Cosmo (Drew Humphrey), Lockwood’s best friend. But the scene turns out to be more silly than funny. And when a set piece is dragged onstage with an obvious slit in the giant flat, you just know that Cosmo is going to jump through it at the end of the number. And the iconic “Singin’ in the Rain” number (with actual rain) was ill-conceived at best. I’ve seen this scene done with water coming down on the perimeters of the stage, but at Cohoes it fell on the entire set. The scene is as painful to watch as it must be to perform. Kimmel looked like a deer in the headlights as he attempted to dance joyously on the slippery skim that covered the stage.
The performances are uniformly fine, with Humphrey giving an especially skilled comic turn as the under appreciated Cosmo and Freda as the under-talented Lamont. Her singing of “What’s Wrong With Me” in the second act reveals a very pretty voice indeed.
In all, C-R’s production is high-energy performing with some mighty klutzy production values.