By PAM HARBAUGH
It may pour on stage, but the sun shines through in Titusville Playhouse’s tuneful, stylish and lively production of “Singin’ in the Rain.”
The legendary team of Betty Comden and Adolph Green adapted this romantic musical comedy from their 1952 movie with lyrics by Arthur Freed, and music by Nacio Herb Brown. Set in Hollywood at the time when silent movies gave way to the talkies, the story concerns matinee idol Don Lockwood falling in love with aspiring ingenue Kathy Selden. Lockwood’s Hollywood co-star, narcissistic Lina Lamont, does not have a voice for the talkies, so he helps Selden get a job dubbing Lamont’s horrible speaking and singing voice.
TPI’s production clips along at an almost dizzying pace. Rather than using huge sets to move action from a studio to a park to Grauman’s Chinese Theater to a swanky party, director Steven Heron takes a smart minimalism approach. The proscenium is pulled in gratis a couple of burgundy legs painted with art deco line (and evoking the red entrance into Grauman’s), wheeled stage props become scenic units and TPI’s gorgeous grand drape transports us to a red carpet.
That gives Mr. Heron the opportunity to concentrate on a couple of most memorable bits of theater magic — black and white videos created to look like old-timey movies (created by Niko Stamos) which are projected onto a huge white screen that descends from the rafters; and that deliciously delirious number where 250 gallons of water rain onto the show’s star, Patrick Ryan Sullivan who, as Don Lockwood, dances with happy abandon and sings “Singin’ in the Rain.”
And what a glorious feeling it is. Mr. Sullivan, a professional performer with a commanding stage personality, utterly charms as Lockwood, but especially so when he leaps up onto a street lamp, or, drenched to the bone, playfully kicks water into the audience’s splash zone (and the audience loves it so). There’s a childlike joy in this and, by itself, absolutely worth the time and money to see.The show’s romantic core melts your heart thanks to Mr. Sullivan and Tiffany Trill, who finds that sweet spot in Kathy Selden. Here, the ingenue is sweet, but not naive, which enriches their romantic numbers, including “You Stepped Out of a Dream” and “You Were Meant for Me.”
Laura Mansoon is a riot as Lina Lamont, a Hollywood star who, despite her beautiful screen image, is just this side of The Bowery. She puts the right spin on the show’s famous line “I can’t stand him,” in which she’s trying her hardest to round out those nasally vowels, but instead says “I cin’t stind ‘im.” Although her big number is “What’s Wrong with Me,” she upstages herself with her divine vampy exit when, after getting hit in the face with a pie, she exclaims “Dignity my ass!”
In addition to having some crazy comic skills, Ms. Mansoon is also quite a dancer. Wisely, Mr. Heron places Lina into the “Broadway Melody” number which takes full advantage of Ms. Mansoon’s dancing talent. You can’t take your eyes off her.Mark W. Hardin, who appeared on TPI’s stage as Roger DeBris in “The Producers,” is a dancing and comic wonder in his role of Cosmo Brown, Lockwood’s best friend and old vaudeville co-star. Mr. Hardin pumps big energy on stage in numbers “Make ’em Laugh,” “Moses” and “Good Morning.”
From tap dance numbers to show girl chorus lines, Sterling Lovett, who was wonderful as Sebastian the lobster in TPI’s “The Little Mermaid,” here does excellent work as choreographer. In “All I Do Is Dream of You” he weaves a bevy of squeaky, pink girls into an elaborate ribbon of dance and in “Beautiful Girls” (sung on voice over by Mr. Heron), he brings elegant show girls into movement as intricate as the fantastic costumes they wear.
TPI delivers the goods with “Singin’ in the Rain.” This show is funny, engaging as can be and nothing short of a theater delight. It runs through Sunday. Call now.
SIDE O’ GRITS: “Singin’ in the Rain” performs 8 p.m. Saturday (March 19) and 2 p.m. Sunday (March 20) at Titusville Playhouse, 301 Julia St., Titusville. There are still tickets left for all performances. $20 to $26. Call 321-268-1125, visit TitusvillePlayhouse.com or click onto the ad on the right side of this page. The corporate sponsor for “Singin’ in the Rain” is Kerry B. Kennedy and Associates with Ameriprise Financial in Titusville.