‘Singin’ brings glorious feeling to Drury Lane
Tony Yazbeck and Jenny Guse star in "Singin' in the Rain" at Drury Lane Theatre. | Photo by Brett Beiner
Through Jan. 13
Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace
(630) 530-0111; drurylaneoakbrook.com
Updated: December 6, 2012 3:22PM
If you’re going to do a stage adaptation of a movie musical, you might as well choose a great one, right?
That’s a principal that’s proven true for the theatrical adaptations of the 1952 classic “Singin’ in the Rain” from its 1983 premiere in London, through various revivals, all the way up to its highly entertaining debut at the Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook. The only drawback being that remaining true to the well-known and beloved original always underscores the fact that your production is essentially a facsimile, however excellent it may be. Which will always suffer by comparison, even if the comparison is made in the most flattering terms.
Fortunately, though, “Singin’ in the Rain” is such a joyous film and the production at the Drury Lane is so well-staged and so skillfully performed that it doesn’t really matter. It’s a show that was designed to lift you up, make you laugh and go home feeling great.
If you’ve somehow managed to miss seeing the movie, the plot involves the transition from silent films to talkies. Just like the 2011 Oscar winner “The Artist,” but with more laughs and less suicidal despair.
Silent film stars Don Lockwood (Broadway performer Tony Yazbeck) and Lina Lamont (Melissa Van Der Schyff, another Broadway performer who comes close to stealing the show) are a romantic team who have recently completed their most recent hit “The Royal Rascal.” Don’s a down-to-Earth guy who graduated to the movies from vaudeville with his lifelong friend and dancing partner Cosmo Brown (Matthew Crowle, who performed on Broadway in “Spamalot” and gives Van Der Schyff competition when it comes to show-stealing). Lina’s a brainless diva with a mean streak, basically a cross between Miss Adelaide in “Guys and Dolls” and Medusa — only it’s her screeching Bronx bimbo voice that could turn you to stone.
Her screech becomes a serious problem when Monumental Pictures decides to switch to talkies in the wake of “The Jazz Singer” and Lockwood and Lamont’s “The Duelling Cavalier” (an original film for this production and the funniest moment in the show) fails spectacularly in a sneak preview. Fortunately, Cosmo has a brilliant idea: Why not get the up-and-coming actress Kathy Seldon (Jenny Guse), who is also the love of Don’s life, to dub Lina’s role? An idea that doesn’t make Lina the least bit happy.
There’s a lot to like about Drury Lane’s “Singin’ in the Rain” (directed by Bill Jenkins) and little to complain about. There’s tons of old-style hoofing, expertly performed, plenty of first-class tunes (“Good Morning,” “Make ‘em Laugh,” “Moses Supposes”) and no shortage of comedy. The romance between Don and Kathy is a bit drippy at times, but that problem is addressed by having them shut up and lock lips as often as possible.
Of course, the main attraction is the “Singin’ in the Rain” sequence itself — a true cinematic icon transformed into a show-stopping first-act closer. Copious quantities of water pours down on the stage as Yazbeck lovingly recreates the number, even jumping into puddles with such gusto that audiences in the first few rows get splashed (raincoats provided by management). It works so well that the show stages the song a second time with the entire cast after the curtain call.
There’s something liberating about that number, even if it’s just recalling childhood memories of the illicit thrill of puddle jumping. Of course, that feeling of crazy abandon is amplified considerably when the kicking and splashing is going on indoors and on stage.
The performers obviously enjoy it. You can see it in the way they smile. And before you know it, you’re likely to be feeling the same way too.