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Tapping, singing cast shines in 'Rain'

By BARBARA L. FREDRICKSEN
Published March 3, 2007


The musical Singin' in the Rain is a tap dancer's delight, and the version playing at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre through April 15 has nearly three dozen of the best tappers in the business.

It's also a comedy, and director-choreographer Katie Kerwin's cast really does, as the song says, Make 'em Laugh, Make 'em Laugh, Make 'em Laugh.

Add Angela Hoerner's knockout costumes and Tom Hansen's smooth-running sets and lights and you have 21/2 hours of nonstop fun.

And, yes, it "rains" real water on stage during the title number.

Singin' in the Rain was adapted from the 1952 film classic starring Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O'Connor. It takes place in 1927, during the transition from silent movies to talkies, with high romance tossed in.

Don Lockwood (Chris Warren Murry) and Lina Lamont (Erin Romero) are the Brangelina of their day, until Lina has to speak out loud and her voice comes out in a high, nasal, Bronx bray.

To cover up her shortcoming, producer R.F. Simpson (Monte Michelsen) brings in Don's secret love, Kathy Selden (Andrea Eskin), to dub her voice.

This works until Lina finds out, and then it's fireworks on the set, and the budding romance between Don and Kathy is put into jeopardy.

The stage version closely follows the movie script, but the challenges are 10 times what they are for cinema. After all, for live actors, there are no re-takes, trick photography or time to recoup between scenes. This means that the singer-dancers often have to go from one high-energy production number to the next with only moments to recover their breath in between.

This is a particular challenge for Murry, who has long stretches on stage in high-energy dance numbers that come in quick succession.

At the end of Act 1, for example, Murry leaps around the stage with his lifetime buddy, Cosmo Brown (Tyler Fish) in Moses Supposes, tips over the sofa with Cosmo and Kathy in Good Morning, then glides into the near show-stopping Singin' in the Rain all by himself.

Murry does it all in easygoing style, his sound-enhanced shoes never missing a tap.

Ms. Eskin's Kathy is equally up to the task, dancing and twirling around the stage with bright-eyed enthusiasm, despite the physicality of her role.

Their voices may not be stellar, but they are more than adequate, especially considering the pair's remarkable dance skills.

Fish and Ms. Romero are wonderful in their supporting roles, perfectly capturing the small gestures that make Cosmo and Lina such delightful characters. Watch for Fish's quick little double-takes, charming mugging and bouncy steps.

Fish is also a superb dancer, making intricate taps, twists and turns appear effortless. He and Murry are a hoot in the hokey Fit As a Fiddle and jokey Moses Supposes. But it's Fish's solo turn in the dangerously energetic Make 'em Laugh that is eye-popping.

Note, too, Sean Loutzenhiser as the Production Tenor who shows what a talkie should sound like in Beautiful Girl and the two adorable young gentlemen who play Don and Cosmo as little kids, P.J. DiGaetano and Matthew Romeo.

Kudos also to David Himes, who produced the grainy black and white films used during the show that perfectly capture the feeling of the pre-talkie era. (Note: the uncredited actor in the talkie movie demonstration is indeed Show Palace artistic director Matthew McGee.)

If you go

'Singin' in the Rain'

Matinees and evening performances through April 15 at Show Palace Dinner Theatre, 16128 U.S. 19, Hudson. Dinner and show, $42.50; show only, $31.45; ages 12 and younger, $24.95 and $19.95; all plus tax and tip. Call (727) 863-7949 in west Pasco; toll-free elsewhere at 1-888-655-7469.