Sunday, July 16, 2017

Review of "Singin in the Rain"

Tucked away in a small tent off the New Canaan High School parking lot is one of the most entertaining musicals of the summer season. There, the Summer Theatre of New Canaan is presenting a highly gratifying and dazzling production of Singin’ in the Rain. Based on the 1952 film classic of the same name, the stage version is just as lively and humorous as its celluloid counterpart. Coupled with an ageless score, this ode to the beginnings of movie talkies is a feast for eyes and ears alike.
The ensemble from Singin' in the Rain.

The plot, frothy and vapid, is a variation of the ageless storyline of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, and, finally, boy wins girl.   It focuses on silent movie idols Don Lockwood (Matthew Tiberi) and Lina Lamont (Jodi Stevens). In public, they are the blissful couple, but in private they mesh like oil and vinegar. Their careers face upheaval with the advent of sound that, overnight, begins sweeping through the motion picture industry.  The problem-- Lina Lamont’s speaking and singing voice are dreadful.  However, Don’s best friend and studio gopher, Cosmo Brown (David Rossetti), comes up with the novel idea of having the fresh-faced young actress Kathy Selden (Annabelle Fox) dub Lamont’s voice.  She, of course, is the woman Lockwood has previously met and really loves.   Through mishaps and missteps, the plan works as love prevails over adversity and the mean machinations of Lina Lamont.

The book of the show, adapted by Betty Comden and Adolph Green from their original screenplay, is light, breezy, and silly, but works wonderfully as a perfect summer tonic for musical theater fans. 

The score by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed is chock full of memorable songs, including “Make ‘Em Laugh,” “Moses Supposes,” “Good Morning,” and, of course, the title tune “Singin’ in the Rain.”  They are all gorgeously sung by the cast and delivered with vitality and good old-fashioned razz-ma-tazz.
Matt Tiberi (Don Lockwood) and Annabelle Fox (Kathy Selden) in Singin' in the Rain.
The cast is outstanding.  Matthew Tiberi is admirable as filmdom’s heartthrob, Don Lockwood.  He is charismatic, with a pleasing voice, and smoothly anchors the quartet of fine performers in the production.  David Rossetti as Cosmo Brown is the perfect sidekick.  The actor is a bundle of nervous energy who can dance up a storm, sing with a humorous twinkle, and deliver a bad pun without breaking a sweat.  He never fails to inject a dose of comedic flair into the production.  Annabelle Fox’s Kathy Selden is a triple threat.  She has a gorgeous voice, is a spirited hoofer and a convincing actress.  Her ever-present smile and cheerful persona light up the stage.  Jodi Stevens, who has performed brilliantly throughout Connecticut in the past year (as Sue Mengers in I’ll Eat You Last and Mazeppa in Gypsy, both at the Musical Theater of Connecticut), delivers another stellar portrayal as the self-absorbed, barely talented movie queen with the screechy voice, Lina Lamont.   
Annabelle Fox (Kathy Selden) and members of the ensemble from Singin' in the Rain.
Doug Shankman demonstrates why he was honored last year with the Best Choreographer award from the Connecticut Critics Circle.  The productions numbers, heavy on tap, are lavishly staged and performed with polish and sparkle by the leads and ensemble members. 

Director Melody Meitrott Libonati keeps the pacing fast, but with a light-handed touch.  The essence of Singin’ in the Rain is effervescent entertainment with a generous dollop of humor.  Ms. Libonati ensures these qualities are omnipresent throughout the production.  This is not to say her helming of the musical is capricious or casual.  On the contrary, she guides the show with professionalism and steadiness.
Matt Tiberi (Don Lockwood) Singin' in the Rain.
The Scenic Design by Charles Pavarini III captures the era with a combination of well-designed, brightly colored sets as well as utilizing minimal staging and props. His silent screen projections are quite funny parodies of silent movie artifice and add a playful element to the production.  And he puts on a convincing rain shower for the show’s signature dance number.

Robert Fletcher’s costumes creations are sumptuous and varied.  Devon Allen’s lighting design beautifully adds a layered ambiance to many scenes.

Singin’ in the Rain, a buoyant and highly entertaining production through July 30th.  Ticket information is at or (203) 966 – 4634.

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