note: entire contents copyright 2002 by Beverly Creasey
No less a critic than the late great Pauline Kael declared SINGIN' IN THE RAIN the greatest movie musical ever made. And we all know they don't make 'em like that anymore. But they did make a stage show from the movie and Reagle Players pull out all the (water) stops to bring it to pulsating, splashing life.
If you see one musical this year, it has to be Reagle's SINGIN' IN THE RAIN. Now you might ask why, if I can see the movie, would I want to see a stage version without Gene Kelly? The answer is that something transformative happens when eighty feet are pounding the boards right in front of you and when eighty gallons of rain are pounding on a sea of yellow slickers. It's magical. It's what theater can do that film can' t and in this case a curious phenomenon takes over your brain. Just like playing piano (where your two hands move independently of each other), your brain divides and runs the movie for you while you're seeing it live from all angles. No competition with the film. Just synergy. And sheer, unadulterated delight (the squealing kind!).
Yes, they do everything from the movie (and a little more): the couch tips in the joyous "Good Morning" number. The dummy sends his human partner into the air in "Make em Laugh" and the rain, the glorious rain soaks the stage with an ozone high in the title song. Director Kirby Ward's Broadway stars seem so fresh and exuberant that you never once compare them (while you're remembering) with the original cast. Choreographer Peggy Hickey recreates Kelly and Donen's spectacular ensemble choreography and she dances the breathtaking Cyd Charisse role in the showstopping "Broadway Melody". (How often do you ?nd a show with multiple showstoppers!) Broadway veteran John MacInnis (originally from Medford!) comes back to Boston to play the Kelly character with such boyish bravado that you easily forgive him his conceit. MacInnis is paired with the sassy Christina Saffron Ashford as the sweet girl who makes it big dubbing in her gorgeous voice for the strident silent film star (Heidi Johnson in hilarious form). By the way, did you know that, in a strange twist of fate, Debbie Reynolds was dubbed in the movie because Donen and Kelly didnt like her Midwestern accent? Joshua Finkel makes 'em laugh in spades as Macinnis' sidekick (and the dummy's agile partner) and Mark Brey has a grand time as the frazzled film director. Reagle regular Nathan Croner overcame a microphone headache to croon "Beautiful Girls" without ampli?cation so we could still hear his lovely Irish tenor; Roy Earley steals a little of the Broadway boys thunder in the "Moses Supposes" number as the stuffy, German accented voice coach and R. Glen Michell huffs and puffs as the powerhouse studio head a la L.B. Mayer. Beth Martin practically foams at the mouth as the fawning gossip columnist and Migeul Cervantes gets in some nifty slapstick. Of course the songs by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown (adapted by Comden and Green) ?t like a well played fiddle.
"Fit as a Fiddle" starts the ball rolling burlesque-style, then eases into the sublime "All I Do - is Dream of You" not to mention "You are My Lucky Star" . The Reagle orchestra never has sounded so good. Brent Ferguson's music made love to the dancers (esp. the sexy brass in the erotic Gotta Dance). Suffice it to say you'll leave the theater floating on air. To paraphrase that "Gotta Dance" anthem, you gotta go see SINGIN IN THE RAIN before all that's left is a rainbow over the city.