“Singin’ in the Rain” is a Splashing Smash Hit for Lyric
“Singin’ in the Rain” Lyric’s summer season opener is even better than remembered—surprising to Oklahoman’s after the rain endured this spring! But delightful, refreshing and wonderful with a great cast, “Singin’ in the Rain” is a real crowd pleasure. Lyric never disappoints with the massive Cecil B. DeMille level of musical extravaganzas, the quality of vocals and acting as well as dancing is always superb, but “Singin’ in the Rain” has something a little different. Not new, but uncommon-it’s tap. And not just toe tappin’ as every audience must always do at Lyric but tap dancing-thrillingly and skillfully!
The musical is based on the classic film developed for the great Gene Kelly with the screenplay by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. The songs are by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed and Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen created the original film choreography. As a theatrical musical Lyric’s presentation is directed by the incomparable Michael Baron with choreography by Lyn Cramer. Two who really know what they are doing! From the first moment the audience is awed by the scene design due to the talent of Uldarico Sarmiento, and the 1920’s costumes by Jeffrey Meek, with lovely and effective lighting from designer Helena Kuukka. Then the sound–thanks to the brilliance of Musical Director Brian T. Hamilton we are off to a great start!
It’s the 20’s and Hollywood is in its first heyday especially with the stars of Monumental Studio, the great Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont, a romantic duo thrilling their fans with every love scene, and the studio publicists bill them as a real romantic duo. They are not. Lina thinks they are, but Don barely tolerates her. Then another studio premieres the first ‘talkie’ called “The Jazz Singer” starring Al Jolson. For the first time audiences could see and hear the actor as Al Jolson begins his song. It’s a hit, a big hit, and the latest picture of the Lockwood/Lamont duo cannot be released as just another silent film. They must convert it to include sound synchronization. Hard to do when filming is wrapped. Lockwood and his best friend and partner from vaudeville days, Cosmo Brown conceive the idea of turning “The Dueling Cavalier” into “The Dancing Cavalier” and make it a musical. The attempt is a failure.
Don Lockwood is talented, but his movie partner, Lina Lockwood is not as blessed Cosmo Brown. She is beautiful, but empty, and her voice is like fingernails on a blackboard. In the 1920’s the world wasn’t ready for the vocal gyrations of a Fran Drescher, and certainly not one with less talent, but that’s movie star, Lina Lamont. Lockwood has also become romantically captivated by a young actress at the beginning of her career, Kathy Seldon. Now she can sing! They surreptitiously proceed with the project but dub in Kathy’s voice to replace Lina’s. Lina is furious, as the young upstart nobody has a better voice and has stolen the heart of her man. Trouble ensues, but eventually it all comes out right-after all, this is a romantic musical, with a lot of comedy and love, like nature will always find a way.
The cast is excellent. Yes, they can sing, they can all dance, they can act, but the three leads cannot only do all that, they can tap. They do justice to the movie performers, Gene Kelly as Lockwood, Donald O’Connor as Brown and Debbie Reynolds as the talented Kathy Seldon. This cast is led by Jeremy Benton as Don Lockwood, Richard Riaz Yoder as Cosmo Brown and Tatum Grace Ludlam as Kathy Seldon. These three performers boldly go as far as the movie originals we know and love. Tap dancing with such grace that we are reminded of more greats in the wonderful world of tap dancing—Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson dancing on the stairs with the tiny Shirley Temple, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, of course, Sammy Davis Jr. and the Nicholas Brothers. Not remembered so much but long before there was ever gangster rap, there was gangster tap—Jimmy Cagney! These three performers brilliantly bring to mind a favorite entertainment almost forgotten!
And the remaining cast is equally tremendous. Lexi Windsor’s usual delightful vocals became the grating voice of silent star Lina Lamont. She is exquisitely awful. Amazing! Andi Dema as Roscoe Dexter, the promoter with a beret is suave and debonair with a slightly humorous flair. Choreographer, Lyn Cramer also plays the head of Monumental Studios, R. F. Simpson, realistically and naturally and unexpectedly wonderful.
Supporting cast members making a significant contribution to many viewers includes the entire ensemble cast out of the entire 34 members. Jamaal Jackson as the young Cosmo and Sam Carper as the young Don are talented young dancers to watch for in coming years. Ensemble member Stephen Hilton is always a star in everything he does, and he makes the most of his performance as usual. Mattie Joyner of the ensemble is Zelda frenemy confidante to Lina Lamont giving an outstanding performance. Bianca Bulgarelli steals the show vamping Don Lockwood in the second act, bringing silent star Louise Brooks back to life beautifully and exuding a great deal of steam. Taylor Ratliff is Rod, assistant to Studio Head R. F. Simpson. He does a great job of brown-nosing with enthusiasm and comic humility. Another brilliant notable is Phoebe Butts as Dora Bailey, Hollywood Gossip Columnist with a story to find and tell about everybody. Butts is a fine musical theatre performer, she can sing and dance with excellence and she is also shaping up as one of Oklahoma City’s finest character actresses.
Those performers unnamed should not go unrecognized, they are deserving of the applause and it is their hard work and support that brings the audience to their feet for the curtain calls. With the usual superior technical workmanship and the efforts of cast, and phenomenal orchestra under Brian T. Hamilton, “Singin’ in the Rain” must be included on the schedule for this week. Opening last night, (Tuesday, June 25) and running only through the weekend, there is danger of missing out on this great show. “Newsies” is coming up July 9, 2019 and that will be great as usual, but don’t miss out on “Singin’ in the Rain” ‘cause you’ll be raining on your own parade…it’s that good if you like toe-tappin’!
The Oklahoma City Civic Center Music Hall is located in downtown OKC at 201 N. Walker Avenue and their box office telephone number is 405-594-8300. Or simply call the Lyric Theatre Box Office direct at 405-524-9312. You can also visit www.lyrictheatreokc.org for tickets and information.