Singin’ in the Rain, book by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, adapted from their screenplay; music and lyrics by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed. Directed by Brian Swasey.
Reviewed by J. Peter Bergman
"I’ve Got a Feeling You’re Fooling"
Caitlin Wilayto; photo: provided
The production of "Singin’ in the Rain" at the Mac-Haydn Theatre in Chatham, New York bears little resemblance to the one that played on Broadway in the mid-1980s which elevated dancer Don Correia to twenty minutes of stardom (things lasted a bit longer in the 80s). Comden and Green won a Tony nomination for their adaptation but the current book is a bit of a filmic mess with impossible cross-fades that just don’t work at this theater and not enough music to cover them. Songs have been re-ordered and good numbers cut completely while a song entitled "What’s Wrong With Me?" (from the 1948 motion picture :"The Kissing Bandit" introduced by Kathryn Grayson) has been added for Lina Lamont, the only character in the show who finds singing impossible.
To refresh your memory this film/musical play is about a movie star whose voice is so bad it must be dubbed without her knowledge in order for her studio not to lose a lot of money on a picture that they cannot release. To say she goes ballistic when she finds out what’s going on is putting it mildly; Jean Hagen in the film was brilliant. In Chatham, Lina is played very, very well by Caitlin Wilayto who wears the late 1920s costumes with style and flair, who dances as she speaks and sings, with a wild caterwaul that makes her madcap gestures and actions into just the right improper representation of a person who is a silent movie star. She actually provides more than half the fun of this production.
As her silent film co-star Don Lockwood (distinguished in the film by Gene Kelly) we have Patrick Heffernan who started this season off with a very quirky, highly enjoyable El Gallo in "The Fantasticks" and who went on to play Hart, the boss in "9to5" in an also quirky and less effective manner. Now he has cracked the shell and taken on a charismatic role that requires more talent than he actually seems to possess. His singing here is questionable as he exhibited pitch problems and an inability to carry a tune on the title song as well as on the ballad "You Were Meant for Me." He also found new notes for sections of "Broadway Rhythm" or "Broadway Melody" (take your choice). His dancing was nothing to write home about and his charms as a leading man were somewhat questionable also. For my money, I wouldn’t bet on a big career after this display of ability gone missing. It’s very hard to understand the sudden descent from an excellent beginning to this dreadful performance.
His friend Cosmo Brown was played with wit and humor by Michael Coale Grey. Kathy Seldon, the mousy-brown heroine who becomes a star was played and sung and danced nicely by Heather Farney whose previous appearance in "La Cage aux Folles" also had charm and poise.
Ashley Kelly gave Dora Bailey, radio personality, great gusto and personality. Derek Jaques turned the movie mogul into a parody and a young tenor named Mario Castro turned in the finest vocal performance of the evening with "Beautiful Girls."
The real star of this well-directed production (Brian Swasey is the director), however, is the costume designer whose sense of 1929 fashion is at the top without going over. Jimm Halliday’s dresses, suits and period costumes for the film being made are perfect and eye-filling and so wonderfully workable on this theater-in-the-round stage that they truly make the show a hit, no matter what else occurs.
See the show, but be prepared to want to sing along, sing very loudly in fact. There is much that is worthwhile and it almost counters what is weakest. Andy Geary’s tapping choreography is worth the price of admission, most of the time and there is always the collection of great period songs to keep you happy also.
Patrick Heffernan, Heather Farney, Michael Coale Grey; photo provided
The trio in the finale; photo: provided
Singin’ In The Rain plays at the Mac-Haydn, located at 1925 State Road 203 in Chatham, New York through July 21. For information and tickets call the box office at 5180392-9292 or visit www.machaydntheatre.org.