El Dorado Musical Theatre Production of Singin’ in the Rain

Singin’ in the Rain
An Encore Production

Featuring performers ages 13-22

This show is rated G

Screenplay by Betty Comden and Adolph Green
Songs by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed
Based on the classic Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film by special arrangement with Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures, Inc.

February 20-March 1, 2015
Harris Center at Folsom Lake College

Director/Choreographer: Debbie Wilson
Vocal Director: Jennifer Wittmayer
Costumer: Christine Martorana

Theatrical Review – Singin’ in the Rain

By Dick Franztreb

El Dorado Musical Theatre’s Singin’ in the Rain opened last night at the Harris Center in Folsom. I have gotten used to the idea of each EDMT production being more impressive than the last, but I’m also aware that nothing can grow forever. Keep blowing up a balloon and it will eventually pop, keep adding to the earth’s population and someday we’ll outstrip the earth’s ability to sustain us. But those arguments ignore a key variable — creativity. And it’s the unending creativity of the EDMT organization, in particular Artistic Director Debbie Wilson, that convinces me that each show can be more spectacular than the last. And that was certainly true in what I saw last night.

Every EDMT musical shows me something I haven’t seen before. In this show, it was Andrew Wilson dancing and singing with rain falling from above, as he splashed in the standing water. It was also a clever incorporation of several black and white movies into the action, since the basic plot involves the transition from silent films to “talkies” back in the late 1920s. And as I’ve said before, in all the dance numbers, in all the staging for that matter, I saw elements that were completely fresh — and delightful.

If I’ve counted correctly, there are 41 members in this show’s cast, and every single one of them is a showman: animated acting, energetic dancing, and strong singing. The stage is loaded with talent. But the leads in this show were simply amazing. Andrew Wilson as screen star, Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly in the movie), has shown himself time and again to be a complete performer, and this show was no exception. And his cousin, Zach Wilson, as Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Connor in the movie), was a perfect partner. They shine especially in “Moses Supposes.” For fun, I just watched the YouTube clip of the movie version of this number, with its dancing on a table and on chairs, and I can see that what I witnessed last night was an almost identical version of both the choreography and staging of the movie. Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor were good, but for my money, they have nothing on the Wilson cousins. You have to see it yourself, and you’ll believe, too.

Then there’s “Make’em Laugh” in which Donald O’Connor’s acrobatics are legendary. So how would Zach pull off that number in this show? While he sang, many other actors assisted him through a variety of clever gymnastic skits, but he ended with a back flip off the wall – with the help of two other performers. Good for them for preserving this iconic moment.

The female leads were equally impressive. Lauren Metzinger played the part of Lina Lamont to perfection, with a completely abrasive voice, topped off with a Brooklyn accent. And she maintained her character and voice throughout the show and even in her own song. It’s hard for a good singer to sing poorly, but she did it so well. Here’s wishing her voice a speedy recovery after this show closes! Then there’s Kelly Maur who performed beautifully as Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds in the movie). Her dancing and acting were predictably excellent for any EDMT leading lady, but her singing was exceptional — a remarkably mature voice for a 16-year-old and so easy to listen to. But beyond that, she had the good looks and winsome manner that would make young men in the audience fall hopelessly in love (and make old men wish they were young again).

There were several other wonderful characters, or should I say, caricatures: Ryan Van Overeem as director Roscoe Dexter and Bethany Wheat as Hollywood columnist Dora Bailey are two that stood out to me, playing their exaggerated parts to perfection. And there were a few cameos that I have to mention. One was the spectacular “Beautiful Girl” dance number (with 26 young women in identical costumes performing in perfect synchronization) — and in which Stephen Knoble displayed an arrestingly fine voice. Another extraordinary performance was the dance number that featured Andrew Wilson and his cousin, Anjie Rose Wilson. Anjie has been a principal in virtually all recent EDMT productions, and though she has shown herself time and again to be a complete performer, her dancing is stellar. She played many minor roles throughout this show, but her dancing was highlighted in “Broadway Melody Ballet.” Not only was it a brilliant performance, but it was a style of dancing (I want to call it “adagio dancing”) that I don’t recall seeing from her (or in EDMT productions, for that matter) – and it was a convincing demonstration of the versatility of her talent.

What sets these shows apart from just about anything else you can see in the Sacramento area is the professional-quality choreography and dancing. There are too many dance numbers for me to enumerate them all, but I have to mention the Wilson cousins dancing and singing in “Fit as a Fiddle” while holding violins (“unbelievable” is what I wrote in my notes) or the 9 girls in “All I Do Is Dream of You” whose moves were evocative of the 1920s and who sang with an accent reminiscent of East Coast show girls.

Apart from the dancing, if feels like there is constant movement in this show – look away and you’ll miss something. There are set pieces flying in from above and rolling in from the sides, and people are always moving. And then there are the projections at the back (and top) of the stage, always changing and often animated. The first image was one of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, and it was so good that at first (from the back of the audience) I thought it was a set. Subsequent projections, many of them animated, were equally striking – all the work of multi-talented (and 15-year-old!) Zach Wilson.

Singin’ in the Rain has so much wonderful, familiar music, and the quality of both solo and ensemble singing is as much a product of the work of Vocal Director, Jennifer Wittmayer, as it is of the talent of the individual performers. The show isn’t uproariously funny, but it’s full of humor: sight gags, comic characters, humorous situations, and witty dialog. And complementing it all are the other key elements of stagecraft. The period costumes were amazing in their variety and authenticity – and sometimes outrageousness. Impressive as is the work of the costumers, led by Christine Martorana, I have to admire the work of those who help the performers with their costume changes, sometimes two per actor. As an example of their importance, I learned that Andrew Wilson had 19 costume changes, one of which had to take place in 26 seconds. As an audience member, it was simply startling to see Andrew and Zach leave the stage in one elaborate costume and return almost immediately in a totally different one.

This wonderful production culminated in the whole cast on stage singing a reprise of “Singin’ in the Rain” and tap dancing with umbrellas. I was thinking, “Can it get any better than this?” Of course it can. After all, this is the El Dorado Musical Theatre: they specialize in outdoing themselves.

Singin in the rain cast list