Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Singin' in The Rain"

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note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Beverly Creasey

He Who Laughs, Lasts
"Singin' in The Rain"

By Beverly Creasey

Laughter is the dish at two feasts this month (playing through next weekend only--- so hurry). Both poke fun at pretense and language. Both feature delightful music. One is the stage musical based on the film, SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN, and the other, believe it or not, is Shakespeare, tweaked and pleated into a “nimble” and “well bandied” romp.

The REAGLE PLAYERS in Waltham have mounted SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN before but never with such a large chorus---and what a chorus it is! Several of the hoofers have played leads on the Boston stage this past season. Reagle seems to attract the crème de la crème from Broadway as well as close to home. They excel in re-creating original Broadway productions ---often with the casts from the Broadway revivals—and sometimes with actors from the original shows.

You may remember John McInnis from the Reagle’s award winning production of five years ago, when he splashed his way across the stage (in the Gene Kelley role) and into the heart of the fresh faced chorine from the Midwest. Kristin Beth Williams is charming as the eager newcomer who saves the movie studio when talkies edge out silent movies---and Heidi Karol Johnson reprises her stellar performance as the gorgeous starlet with the gawdawful, grating voice.

If you’ve never seen the movie, rent it, then get to Waltham posthaste. They do it all: crashing through brick walls, tipping over sofas in rhythm and stomping through gallons and gallons of rainwater—just like the movie. There’s something about the live version which heightens the stakes. Even the movie within the movie, like Shakespeare’s play within the play, pitting amateurs against professionals, pleases with high comic style.

Randy Rogel amazes in the “Make ‘Em Laugh” showstopper and Reagle regulars R.Glenn Michell and Roy Earley get plenty of laughs as the longsuffering studio head and exasperated film director. Shanna Heverly takes your breath away in the Cyd Charisse solos and that chorus: There’s just nothing like eighty tapping feet pounding out a “Broadway Melody.”

LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST, presented by the Actor’s Shakespeare Project (in the Garage complex in Harvard Sq.), is one of Shakespeare’s most delicious comedies—with one of the Bard’s most enchanting characters, the preposterous, posturing knight, Don Adriano de Armada. Director Benjamin Evett borrows a page from the Kenneth Branagh film by introducing popular songs from the ‘30s and ‘40s (among other eras) to add buoyancy and bounce. He even ratchets up the humor with scratchy, old recordings of vaudeville crooners from the roaring twenties. He sets the stage (with twigs and books) to pit nature against nurture, the “physical” against the philosophical, the Dionysian against the Apollonian.

The company has a manifold approach to the material: Six actors play all the parts—with just a change of headgear (a wig here, a hat there). So the deluded noblemen who swear off all things pleasurable for three years also portray the clever women who will seduce them into capitulation. The adorably pompous Don Armado transforms himself from “exampling” glorious affectation into the quick witted accomplice of the princess merely by adjusting the direction of his handlebar mustache up or down! Johnny Lee Davenport’s Spanish accent is only surpassed by his dimmest of constables.

The cast is hilarious from the moment they enter, dancing Kelli Edwards’ whimsical choreography. Marianna Bassham is superb as the fool and haughtily clever as a perfect match for the witty Berowne. Jason Bowen is the dashing nobleman and the ridiculous pedant, as well as one of the lovelies in the Princess’ entourage. Sarah Newhouse, as well, triples, as the noble Princess, the wench who has caught the eye of both the Don and the fool and as one of the suitors.

Michael Forden Walker is the high-minded King as well as a toady of a curate and a flirty lady of the court. At one point, the noblewomen switch identities to fool the King and to the actors’ credit, the audience is not in the least confused. What we are, is delighted beyond measure when the votaries are themselves disguised as Russians---and Evett makes them Czechoslovakian, a la SNL’s wild and crazy guys.

Last mentioned, but by no means, least is Khalil Flemming as the most entertaining, “most acute juvenal” you’ve ever witnessed and as a mighty, scene stealing serpent slaying Hercules. It is indeed an inspired ostentation which you will not want to miss.

"Singin' in The Rain" (14 - 23 June)
Waltham High School, 617 Lexington Street, WALTHAM MA
1 (781) 891-5600

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide