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The Play-Goer: 2nd Star Productions’ Singin’ In the Rain

The classic movie splashes to life

photo by Nate Jackson Photography

         In 1952 Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds teamed up on what was to become the top film musical ever made, according to the American Film Institute: Singin’ In the Rain. The story centers on the transition in the 1920s from silent film to talkies, and of course features that unforgettable title song, choreographed by Kelly complete with a drenching rain. The movie became a Broadway musical in 1985, lasted about a year, and has been making the rounds of local theaters since.

         2nd Star Productions and director Allison Erskine give us an earnest and entertaining version whose less-than-energetic pace on opening night could not dampen several delightful performances.

         First the story: matinee idol Don Lockwood (Jeffrey Hawkins) has a successful silent film career going with the beautiful Lina Lamont (Katrina Sillaman). He and his vaudeville partner and pal Cosmo (Robbie Dinsmore) have risen to the top, and the studio has sold tickets by convincing the public that Don and Lina are a couple in real life. One day, attempting to avoid his adoring fans, Don meets Kathy Selden (Emma Godfrey), who scoffs at his undignified career and claims to be a stage actress herself. We know it’s love at first sight.

         When talkies become the rage, Don, Cosmo and Kathy decide that Don’s next movie, The Dueling Cavalier, should instead be The Dancing Cavalier, complete with sound. Just one problem: Lina’s voice is like fingernails on a chalkboard. And we’re off …

         Hawkins is a prototypical leading man; he has a nice way with the dance moves, and a beautiful if less-than-powerful voice. He anchors the production, doing a fine job on such classic numbers as You Stepped Out of a Dream.

         As his cut-up pal Cosmo, Dinsmore has wonderful comedic timing and a hilarious rubber face that he uses to full effect. While his dancing was sometimes tentative on opening night, his solidly developed antic sideman made Make ‘Em Laugh a delight.

         As Kathy, Godfrey may not have the sparkle associated with the role, but she sings beautifully and has nice chemistry with Hawkins and Dinsmore. The trio is charming, tackling the sassy and instantly recognizable classic, Good Morning.

         The standout performance here is Sillaman as Lina. Sillaman is electric, giving us not just a squeaky complaining blonde bombshell but a solid, hilarious character built with real personality. She is as natural as the wind, and that makes Lina a compelling and hilarious character.

         Choreographer Andrew Gordon does a nice job adapting Kelly’s original choreography to 2nd Star’s smallish stage and works well with lead dancers Debra Kidwell and Tyler McKay White on several numbers. The three led the entire ensemble in rousing versions of both Broadway Melody and the closing version of Singin’ in the Rain, complete with a stage full of yellow umbrellas.

         Speaking of that title song, Hawkins performs the iconic Act I closer behind a wall of real rain, and while 2nd Star omits the equally iconic lamppost that Kelly climbed so charmingly, Hawkins makes quite a splash … literally.

         Musical director Sandy Griese leads a fine 12-piece orchestra, although several slower numbers seemed sluggish and some already too long scene changes dragged on because the band continued playing after lights were up. Costumes by Mary Wakefield are largely appropriate to the 1927 setting, with a few exceptions, and Jane Wingard’s set works well.

         That tentative opening night pace is sure to tighten up as the five-week run goes on, so head to Bowie Playhouse where 2nd Star Productions is making a real splash with one of America’s most beloved song-and-dance productions. 

 

FSa 8pm, Su 3pm, thru Oct. 20, at Bowie Playhouse at White Marsh Park, Bowie; $22 w/discounts, rsvp: www.2ndstarproductions.com.