Once again, Olney Theatre Center (OTC) has put on a tap-happy show. This time it’s Singin’ in the Rain, where the audience hums the familiar tunes as they ratta-ta-tap back to their cars. That was the scene last night at the opening of OTC’s third production in its 81st season. And what a show it was.
Those melodies and memories lingered on long after the curtain closed on the finale where the leads – covered in yellow vinyl raincoats – joined the entire cast, all swinging umbrellas this way and that to a reprisal of Act One’s show-stopper, “Singin’ In The Rain.”
Directed by Marcos Santana, who oversaw Olney’s In The Heights that won the 2018 Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Musical Production, OTC has done it again with Singin’ In The Rain, a sure-to-be-nominated musical delight. And a tip of the hat (fedora in this show) to Grady McLeod Bowman, who choreographed this production that features a dozen top-notch tappers with beaucoup credentials under their belts.
Betty Comden and Adolph Green wrote the original screenplay for the classic Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film, the tale of Hollywood’s transition out of the silent era and into the “talkies.” Olney’s version follows the 1952 movie version with its technical wonders yet still maintains the old-fashioned love story, filled with some of the most memorable songs by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed. Kudos to Music Director Angie Benson for keeping their score bright, lively and unforgettable.
Still, it’s Gene Kelly tap-splashing down the rain-soaked street and hanging from a lamp-post as he croons “Singin’ in the Rain” that has been embedded in our minds since he first appeared on stage. So naturally, the question for a theater critic is how well did Olney veteran actor Rhett Guter rate in his part of movie star/lover boy Don Lockwood?
With his dazzling smile and boyish good looks, Guter delights us with his singing and dancing. In fact, he is required to perform extra splashing, up and down the steps (not seen in the film) and pulls off both balletic and vaudeville steps throughout the show a la Gene Kelly, indeed.
Amanda Castro makes her OTC debut as Kathy Selden, the aspiring actress who captures Don’s attention in a hilarious chorus routine where she literally pops out of a cake and into a pie-throwing ruckus. Kathy soon finds herself as the behind-the-curtain voice of her nemesis Lina Lamont, portrayed with an over-the-top performance by Farrell Parker. This diva makes it clear (through her off-key vocals) she wants to hold on to both her starring roles (without talking) and Don, of course.
As Don’s sidekick, Cosmo, Jacob Scott Tischler performs one show-stealer after another. Making his OTC debut, he threw his body all over the stage in “Make ‘Em Laugh” and wowed us in “Moses Supposes.” I bet Donald O’Connor would have approved of this talented triple threat.
It was fun to see Chris Genebach back on the Olney stage as the Hollywood Director Roscoe Dexter and Michael Russotto as studio chief R.F. Simpson. One must also mention the outstanding technical staff, especially Dan Conway, who designed the 1927 set, and Rosemary Pardee for her costumes. Those backstage hands did a terrific job moving the sets without slowing down the show.
The shorter second act focuses on the filmmakers and their black and white projections of Don and Lina in hilarious wigs and failed attempts to talk. Andrew F. Griffin is noted for his Lighting Design, Roc Lee for Sound, Anne Nesmith for Wig Design, and Robb Hunter and Casey Kaleba for sword fighting choreography in those vintage clips.
Singin’ In The Rain entertains from start to finish. What more could you ask from a musical?
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours, with one 15-minute intermission.
Ensemble: Ian Anthony Coleman, Jennifer Flohr, Max P. Fowler, Andre Hinds, Ashleigh King, Ariel Messeca, Allie O’Donnell, Olivia Ashley Reed, Connor James Reilly, Ian Saunders, Sarah Anne Sillers, Louisa Tringali, Shawna Walker, Michael Wood
Bring your family to the library and say “Good Mornin’” to the cast of Olney Theatre Center’s production of Singin’ In The Rain. Here’s a chance to share some songs and memories. The free event takes place Saturday, December 14, at 11 am in the Olney Library, 3500 Olney Laytonsville Road, Olney, MD.
In the spirit of the holiday season, Olney Theatre Center is partnering with One Warm Coat to organize a coat drive during the run of Singin’ In The Rain. All sizes of new or gently used warm coats will be collected and distributed to local agencies serving those in need.