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Based on the classic Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film
Screenplay by Betty Comden and Adolph Green
Songs by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed
Music published by EMI, all rights administered by Sony/ATV Music Publishing
Original move Choreography by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen

Granbury Theatre Company

Director –Shannah Rae
Music Director—Shannah Rae
Choreography – Brooke Goodson
Scenic Designer—Phil Groeschel
Lighting Designer—Kalani Morrissette
Sound Designer – Kyle Hoffman
Costume Designer – Emily Warwick

CAST (at reviewed performance):
Don Lockwood—Joshua Sherman
Kathy Selden—Madeline Grace Smith
Cosmo Brown—Jason Phillip Cole
Lina Lamont—Katherine Anthony
R.F. Simpson—Jeff Meador
Roscoe Dexter—Brian Lawson
Zelda Zanders—Angela Burkey
Dora Bailey/Mrs. Dinsmore—Alicia Broadhurst
Olga Mara—Amber Lanning
Mary Margaret—Victoria Trimble
“Beautiful Girl” Soloist—Dakota James
Sid Phillips/Gaspard De La Nuit—Christian Loper
Rod—JD Choate
Diction Coach—Phil Groeschel

Ensemble: Katherine Anthony, Kevin Baum, Katy Beckermann, Victoria Burkey, Tonya Laree, Micky Shearon, Tiffany Trimble, Emmie Vaughn

Reviewed Performance: 7/2/2016

Reviewed by Genevieve Croft , Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

Usually when one thinks of a theatrical musical, the first thing that comes to mind is the stage production, then, a film adaptation. In the case of Singin’ in the Rain, the film was actually the basis for the musical production. It has happened a few times before (Xanadu, Footloose, and Flashdance-to name a few), and Singin’ in the Rain falls into the category of musical film first; later adapted for the stage. It seems strange to think that such a beloved musical (and one starring Gene Kelly no less) started out as a film, but has come to be a part of the classic collection of film and stage musicals. With a fantastic cast (funnyman Donald O’Connor, Rita Moreno, Cyd Charisse, and the young Debbie Reynolds) Singin’ in the Rain has made its mark as a notable musical on screen and on stage.

Set in the late 1920’s in Hollywood, Singin’ in the Rain is centered on the golden age of the silent film era, just before the transition of “talking pictures,” or “talkies” as they were known in Hollywoodland. Fictional silent screen duo, Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont are the “It” couple-favorites among the fans, the entertainment columnists, and Monumental Pictures-the film studio who contracts them. Enter talking pictures, and an ingénue who has the most unbearable voice for on-screen acting, comedic situations, a little romance, large musical numbers set against the backdrop of 1920’s y, and you have “Singin’ in the Rain,” the perfect formula for any musical. Often times, the plot, characters and even musical numbers change for the sake of an adaptation. However, the stage musical closely adheres to the plot of the film, and is a pleasant and enjoyable surprise.

Director Shannah Rae brought together a tight ensemble cast which worked well together, and created a fantastic concept as she bridged the film and stage musical together. The company was so fully charged with energy. From the moment the overture began, the audience was transported back to a time when silent films were the popular entertainment medium, wardrobe was colorful and dramatic, and the Charleston was the celebrated dance of choice. Overall, the staging and conceptualization were very pleasant, and visually pleasing. From the beginning, it appeared to me that Ms. Rae set out to re-create the motion picture on stage- with inspired choreography, costumes, and other similar production elements. There was even a “motion picture consultant” on the Arts and Tech staff. Granbury Theatre Company’s production of Singin’ in the Rain pledged faithfulness to the original film endeavor, while also allowing some creative license to be taken for the stage. Rae certainly delivers in the role of director in this production.

Set Designer Phil Groeschel successfully transformed the proscenium stage into the multiple locations in the story. I was very impressed with the bright use of colors, textures, and designs used to convey each location in the story. I was impressed with Groeschel’s attention to detail in each location, from the different silent movie sets of each Lockwood/Lamont film, to the grand 1920’s homes of R.F. Simpson (studio owner) and Don Lockwood. Groeschel transformed the stage into varying locations that were very reminiscent of the film. I thought that this really was really a fascinating touch. It was almost like the classic movie (and one of my personal favorites) was recreated live on stage. There were elements of the set that were directly inspired by the film, because without those scenic design elements, it just wouldn’t have been “Singin’ in the Rain”-for example, the street lamp used in the title number, and the multi-level staircase used in the upbeat and enthusiastic musical number, “Good Morning.” But, there were also elements that were unique and creative- inspired by the designs of the original film.

I was absolutely awe-struck by the real rain that began to fall during “Singin’ in the Rain.” This was totally unexpected. As I have experience working with scenic and lighting designs, when I found out that I was going to be reviewing this show, I immediately started speculating how the designers would go about creating this illusion. I anticipated moving lights, and perhaps sound effect, as the backdrop to large and impressive choreography. Not only did I get the choreography that I expected, but, real rain fell from the sky creating a three-dimensional effect and atmosphere. It was obvious to me that the company had a great time dancing and singing in the rain, as it fell from the “sky.” They allowed the audience to be a part of the magic of the moment, and was probably one of the best effects that I have ever seen created on stage. It is apparent to me that Mr. Groeschel and his assistant scenic designer, Kerri Pavelick spent many hours and a great deal of talent to create this magic on stage, if only for one musical number. Bravo on a creative, and well-developed vision, which certainly delivered in this production. The scenic design was everything I had hoped it would be, and more.

Kalani Morrissette’s lighting design was fantastic overall. Her plot and focus within her lighting was appropriate for each scene and mood. Not only did the lighting serve its purpose in creating mood and atmosphere, but, there were some subtle, yet dramatic moments of lighting that transported me directly into the world of the story. One element that is worth noting was in the scenes that took place on the “soundstages” of each silent film. The lighting would dim as the Director, Roscoe Dexter (played humorously and boisterously by Brian Lawson) would call action to the scene to visually cue the audience that the cameras were synched and rolling. As the film scene would come to close, lights would come up, alerting the audience that the “filming” was over, and we were brought back to the reality of the moment. I thought it was a powerful use of visual imagery. Through the performance, Morrisette’s cuing to enhance each scene was spot on. The lighting complimented the scenic design, creating more of the suggestion and illusion of the time, place and theme of the play.

Emily Warwick designed costumes that were not only appropriate to the 1920’s, but had a great attention to detail. The 1920’s are another decade of fashion that absolutely fascinates me. The wardrobe of the women of the decade very much mirrored light personalities, and the freeness of attitude and expression. There were many bright colors, sequins, and fringe-elements that have become very recognizable as characteristics of the 1920’s clothing. Each piece of clothing, and accessory was very dramatic, and was everything that I would have expected to see in the golden age of silent Hollywood film. I especially enjoyed seeing the hats that the women wore. There were a lot of details that Ms. Warwick incorporated into each costume, making them visually stunning and creative representations of the 1920’s.

Joshua Sherman was phenomenal in the role of Don Lockwood. I attest to this statement with no reservations. This character can quite difficult to master, as audiences have become expect the vocal presence, charisma, and the impressive choreography of the talented and untouchable Gene Kelly. However, Mr. Sherman delivered a spot on, and honest portrayal of the fictional silent movie star, Don Lockwood. Not only did Mr. Sherman deliver with an incredible singing voice, but, he also delivered in his choreography. He moved effortlessly across the stage-with such grace. He is the epitome of what I would call the “triple threat.” He embodied classic musical theatre, and did not disappoint with his charming and fantastic performance.

Another standout was Madeline Grace Smith in the role of Kathy Selden. Through comedic delivery, a likeable on-stage persona and an incredible vocal range, Ms. Smith brought an element of maturity to the role that was originally portrayed by a young and “squeaky” nineteen year old Debbie Reynolds on screen. Ms. Grace’s likeable charm on stage was a nice contrast to the loud, and obnoxious co-star Lina Lamont (portrayed comically by Katherine Anthony.) Ms. Grace truly took the role of Kathy Selden and made it her own, while also paying the appropriate homage to the performance and role played by Debbie Reynolds.

Another actor that should be noted for his performance is Christian Loper. It is not very often that secondary roles, or background characters get their moment in the spotlight, but, I feel that his mention is well-deserved. I have seen Mr. Loper portray other ensemble roles in another production at Granbury Theatre Company (The Drowsy Chaperone), and from reading his biography can tell this young man is full of heart, character, and have the desire to continue honing his craft in theatrical performance. As a theatre educator, it is of great importance to not only recognize the dedication of young actors, but, to also identify and confirm the talent of these up and comers-the next generation of local theatre artisans. Not only did Mr. Loper have the look of what I would expect to see from someone in the 1920’s, but, performance of Sid Phillips (aspiring film director at Monumental Pictures), was authentic, and gave the audience more of an opportunity to be entertained and told the story, with those extra characters and subplot. Mr. Loper, I look forward to seeing you in future performances. It is the dedication of young actors like you that proves theatre is alive and well in our local community, and continues to thrive into the next generation of artists.

This production of Singin’ in the Rain is definitely worth seeing. The attention to detail evident in all aspects of this production makes for a wonderful musical experience at the theatre. From the moment the lights go down, and the familiar cinematic soundtrack is unfolded, you will be drawn into the story. Singin’ in the Rain at Granbury Theatre Company keeps the integrity of the film, but also brings the much needed theatrical spectacle to the stage. If you are looking for classic musical theatre, look no further. “What a glorious feeling” you’ll have after seeing this marvelously produced musical at the historic Granbury Opera House.

Granbury Theatre Company

Granbury Opera House, 133 E. Pearl Street, Granbury, Texas 76048
Plays through July 24.