Thursday, July 15, 2010

'Rain' shines

Mount Washington Valley Theatre Company's 'Singin' in the Rain' runs through July 24

It was raining both outside and on the stage during Tuesday's opening night of the Mount Washington Valley Theatre Company's production of “Singin' in the Rain,” which is running through July 24 at the Eastern Slope Inn Playhouse in North Conway, N.H.

“Singin' in the Rain” is one of the most iconic movie musicals in film history, in fact it topped the American Film Institute's list of the 100 greatest musicals and placed at No. 5 on their list of the greatest films of all time. Those are some lofty shoes to fill on the limitations of a small stage.

Set during the early days of film, “Singin' in the Rain” — in addition to being a great musical — is a shrewd satire of the transition from silent films to talkies.

Grant Golson, just seen in “The Music Man,” stars as Don Lockwood, a Douglas Fairbanks-esque movie star. When talkies become all the rage he must learn to speak on screen. He's up to the challenge, but his shrill, squeaky voiced leading lady, Lina Lamont (Tara Tagliferro) is not.

Lockwood and his loyal sidekick Cosmo Brown (Chris J. Handley) cook up a scheme to use the speaking and singing voice of the sassy Kathy Seldan (Liz Clark Golson) to save the movie.

Those going in expecting to see the level of precision and difficulty portrayed on the screen by Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor will be let down, but those are admittedly perhaps unrealistic expectations.

The dancing on display is good and impressively synchronized, but is somewhat lacking. The title song should be the show's big set piece, but in spite of making it rain on stage — a truly fantastic visual — the number feels flat and short on energy.

The timing on “Make 'Em Laugh” is also ever so slightly off, but is carried through by Handley, a fine comedic actor who was so excellent in last year's production of “The Producers.” His work with a dummy is very funny and he nails the punchline of the scene.

Given that the show was put up in just nine days, it is hard to quibble too much. First-time director LoriAnn Freda and choreographers Bonnie Kelly and Eddie Schnecker deserve credit for managing to put anything together in that time. What is presented is certainly not bad. These are solidly put together dance numbers.

The singing is top notch throughout. All of the most famous songs from the movie, “Singin' in the Rain,” “Make 'Em Laugh,” “You Are My Lucky Star,” “You Were Meant for Me” and “Good Morning” are delivered with gusto.

Tagliaferro steals the whole show though with her truly hilarious rendition of “What's Wrong With Me?” Her comic timing, intentionally bad singing and facial expressions all come together to provide the highlight of the production.

Surprisingly, as good as the singing is, what works best are the non song and dance scenes. Scenes involving the filming of the movie have some very big laughs. Andrew Lipman as the director Roscoe Dexter is a riot as his frustration with the ever clueless Lina grows. A scene involving a diction couch (Dov Rubenstein) also amuses and morphs into the most enjoyable song “Moses.”

The production also integrates filmed parodies of silent films and early talkies. Golson and Tagliferro perfectly capture the essence of the screen acting style of the time.

This is a fun production marked by some strong performance from the hard working cast that easily overcome any shortcomings the show may have. You'll definitely leave the show humming a tune or two and that's a glorious feeling.

Tickets are $32 and may be reserved at the box office at 356-5776, which is open daily from 11 a.m., or online at

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