Blue skies ahead for NSMT’s ‘Singin’ in the Rain’
BEVERLY – What is it about tap dancing that makes us want to don a pair of tap shoes and strut our stuff?
When one – or several, preferably – tap dancers strut their stuff, the energy and enthusiasm of the dancers are infectious.
When done well, it has the ability to lift an entire production – the musical “42nd Street” comes immediately to mind.
The in-the-round stage at North Shore Music Theatre is not the easiest type of venue for the staging of dance numbers, but those who know how – such as director and choreographer Richard Stafford – can make it a dancer’s dream, with NSMT’s current production of “Singin’ in the Rain,” the latest example.
The musical based on the classic MGM motion picture.has a screenplay by Betty Comden and Adolph Green that is both a tribute to and a gentle satire of the film industry.
It is 1927 in Hollywood, and the silent movie is still king, which pleases the power couple – and movie mag heartthrobs – Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont.
Mark Evans has the requisite leading man looks and demeanor as Lockwood, but before we sign off on him in the part we want to see how he dances – call it the Gene Kelly test.
He starts to dance his way into our hearts in “Fit as a Fiddle,” with Sean McGibbon as sidekick Cosmo Brown, and then really hits his stride with McGibbon and Tessa Grady as Kathy Selden in “Good Morning” before acing the final exam, making the title tune a special event, dancing through the raindrops without a care in the world and putting the audience in the same mood.
Grady made a fine first impression with NSMT’s “Saturday Night Fever” last year when she also had a chance to show off her dancing chops, and she’s back at it as Kathy Selden, the actress who pops out of a cake and into the heart of Lockwood, whose tabloid romance with co-star Lamont is going nowhere.
Any show that gives David Coffee yet another chance to show off his impeccable comic timing works for me, and here he is Roscoe Dexter, the frazzled director saddled with the responsibility of getting Monumental Pictures to transition from silent pictures to “talkies” in 1927.
That’s while studio head R.F. Simpson (Steve Brady) is interfering at will.
The role of actress Lina Lamont (Emily Stockdale), whose shrill, high-pitched voice defines cacophany and threatens her career, is a license for a talented actress to steal scenes and Stockdale does just that, scheming to undermine the talented Selden.
McGibbon as Cosmo Brown, Lockwood’s close friend and second banana in the movie role played by the late Donald O’Connor, gets a chance to show off not only his acting, singing and dancing, but his juggling as well in the one-man-show production number “Make ’em Laugh.”
The production numbers shine, especially “Broadway Melody,” also known as the “Gotta Dance?” number. Gotta dance? They sure do. And once they start, you won’t want them to stop.
Special mention to Krystyn Pope, the dance captain and associate choroegrapher who also plays The Girl in the Green Dress in a slinky, sexy dance number.
This is a show that has a lot of moving parts. Stafford, who has directed and choreographed some of NSMT’s finest productions, also directed both the silent and “talkie” black-and-white films that are an integral part of the production, and he handles all of his roles with both skill and aplomb.
Milton Granger, whose superb music direction of “Mary Poppins” was one of the highlights of that production, returns to lead an orchestra that pours its hearts out for the songs by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed that have long since taken up residence in the Great American Songbook, including the title tune, “All I Do is Dream of You,” “You Are My Lucky Star,” and “Good Morning.”
Don’t hit the parking lot early or you’ll miss the entire cast reprising “Singin’ in the Rain” in those iconic yellow rain slickers with matching umbrellas.
Yes, they are singing – and even better, dancing their hearts out – in the rain, but there isn’t anything but blue skies ahead for this production.
The North Shore Music Theatre production of “Singin’ in the Rain,” Screenplay by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. Songs by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed. Based on the MGM film. Scenic and lighting design by Jack Mehler. Costume coordination and additional costume design by Mark Nagle. Sound design by Leon Rothenberg. Hair and wig design by Gerard Kelly. Directed and choreographed by Richard Stafford. At the North Shore Music Theatre through Sept. 4. http://www.nsmt.org.