Singin’ in the Rain – Review by Marlene Gaylinn

Summer Theatre of New Canaan (STONC) is presenting a razzle-dazzle production of Singin’ In The Rain. This song and dance-filled musical was originally a film. Betty Comden and Adolph Green wrote its screenplay with songs by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed. The featured tap-dancers were Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Renyolds. Most folks have seen excerpts of this film’s dance sequences on TV, particularly, Gene Kelly’s unforgettable performance in the famous rain scene.

At STONC, the featured dance performers are: Matthew Tiberi (Don), David Rossetti (Cosmos) and Annabelle Fox (Kathy). Actress Jodi Stevens is hilarious as Lina Lamont and practically steals the show. Fox closely resembles Debbie Renyolds however, her song styling is sweetly her own. Tiberi and Rossetti are highly entertaining and make a wonderful song and dance team. In short, the whole cast is excellent!

The story takes place during the transformation of the movie industry to talking films. This was a period of time when “talkies” meant “walkies” for former silent film stars that could not sing or articulate sentences very well. Such is the overnight downfall of Lina Lamont (Jodi Stevens) when “Kathy” (Annabelle Fox) is hired to substitute for her silent film’s mouthing of words and songs. Coordinated black and white film projections add to the funny scenes. To further illustrate the point, Stevens is a riot when sings, “What’s Wrong With Me” in her Shelly Winters “Born Yesterday” accent.

The boy meets girl plot merely serves as an excuse for its wonderful song and dance numbers and STONC director, Melody Libonati, knows how to glide through this boring stuff smoothly. Right off the bat, “Fit as a Fiddle,” a charming vaudeville act performed by “Don” (Matthew Tiberi) and “Cosmo” (David Rossetti) sets the stage for all the fun that follows. It’s hard to pick a favorite number among: “All I Do Is Dream of You,” “Make ’Em Laugh,” “Beautiful Girl,” “You are My Lucky Star,” “You Were Meant For Me,” “Moses Supposes,” Good Morning and of course the signature “Singin’ in the Rain” with real rain of course. How the rain was piped from afar and into the all-weather outdoor tent must have been an interesting feat.

Doug Shankman, who won the Connecticut Critics Award for “Best Choreography” (STONC’s production of “West Side Story” last year) shows why he’s so brilliant and inventive. While we missed Donald OConnors’ wall-climbing back flips (the living room scene did not have a side wall) the re-staged dance sequences were equal to the film.

Special mention goes to Costume Designer Sarita Fellows – her period dresses were right on the mark. Musical Director, Kenneth Gartman, conducted the lively orchestra.

This is the 14th year that STONC has been producing just one, professional performance a season. For a small company to have been recognized by the Connecticut Critic Circle for its outstanding work is quite an achievement. Don’t miss its current, highly entertaining show.

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