Many shows have been adapted from popular movies, but few, if any, have been so slavishly copied as Singin’ in the Rain.
Notice, for instance, that instead of a credit for the musical book, the program lists “Screenplay by Betty Comden and Adolph Green,” an indication of how little the film’s script has been changed. And while that screenplay worked like gangbusters in the movie, there has been scant effort to adjust it to the demands of the stage. The difference between the two media is evident at The Wick Theatre, where the production lurches from scene to scene with insufficient transition or momentum.
Fortunately, director-choreographer Rommy Sandhu has three terrific performers in the principal roles. Jeremy Benton, Darien Crago and Courter Simmons may not allow you to forget their movie predecessors – Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor respectively – but they execute the show’s numerous iconic production numbers with skill, grace and humor. Chances are that will be enough for much of The Wick’s audience.
Surely you know the show’s plot, don’t you? Silent film star Don Lockwood (Benton) has long been teamed with Lina Lamont (Laura Plyler) in a succession of swashbucklers. But suddenly Hollywood is taken aback by the advent of talkies and the box office success of The Jazz Singer. So instead of releasing as scheduled the latest Lockwood-Lamont epic, The Dueling Cavalier, the studio insists it be converted for sound. In fact, turned into a musical.
The hitch? Lamont’s painfully screechy voice. Cosmo Brown (Simmons), Lockwood’s longtime pal from vaudeville days, suggests substituting the voice of Kathy Selden (Crago), the comely ingenue that Don met cute and bickered with, but has since fallen in love with.
It is a more than serviceable story on which to hang more than a dozen ditties by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed, such as love songs “You Were Meant for Me” and “You Stepped Out of a Dream,” novelty numbers like “Moses Supposes” and “Make ’em Laugh,” and, of course, the iconic title tune. Benton handles that song and its lovestruck cavorting well enough, but the reaction of the audience borders on the Pavlovian. At Saturday’s opening night performance, the crowd burst into applause at the first sign of precipitation.
Physically, Benton brings to mind Jimmy Stewart more than Kelly, but he dances with an easygoing manner – even in his frequent tap numbers – and he sings with assurance. Simmons, showcased well in The Wick’s Beauty and the Beast and Drowsy Chaperone, knocks himself out entertaining us. This was especially so in “Make ’em Laugh,” though he was met with only an occasional audience titter. The same goes for Plyler’s solo, “What’s Wrong with Me,” the musical equivalent of fingernails on a blackboard.
As Kathy, Crago has the least interesting role of the principals, but she sings and moves nicely, matching the guys step for step. This is particularly evident in “Good Morning,” with its giddy tap section and, yes, they topple a sofa and collapse on it to end the number. As in the movie, the “Broadway Melody” sequence is an unmotivated tangent, but here it is more than justified by the appearance of leggy Emily Tarallo as Girl in Green.
The show calls for extensive original film clips, handled expertly by The Wick’s projections designer, Josieu Jean. The set, rented from Gateway Theatre on Long Island, is most noted for its rain platform that affords easy cleanup at intermission. And as usual at The Wick, it remains a live theater cutting corners by using a recorded orchestra.
SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN, The Wick Theatre, 7901 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton. Through Sunday, Feb. 18. $85. 561-995-2333 or visit thewick.org.