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Singin’ in the Rain — Croswell Opera House — Review August 6, 2011

Posted by ronannarbor in musical theater, Musicals.
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Now is as good a time as most to get tickets for Croswell Opera House’s SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN. The production which opened last night is an example of Croswell at it’s finest — when all the pieces click (technical, musical, and performances), and the qualities that make a show at this fine theater stand out from any other local theater company are on full display.

Marlena Hilderley (as Kathy Selden) meets Joseph Dennehy (as Don Lockwood) waiting for the Trolley

From the first orchestra chord to the last, the musical direction by Jonathan Sills is top notch. The vocal work throughout the show is noteworthy, from leads to ensemble.

Joseph Dennehy (from Toledo) dances a fine Don Lockwood, and Marlena Hilderley (University of Michigan) is simply marvelous as Kathy Seldon.  K.C. Kenney (Toledo) is a funny and very gifted young singer/dancer/actor as Cosmo Brown. The age difference between himself and stage “best pal and childhood friend” Mr. Dennehy, however, is obvious.

Director Brian Hissong keeps things generally moving along at a leisurely pace (maybe a bit too leisurely given the shows long running time) and choreographer Jodi Adkins Hissong adds her own touches to the fine dance sequences, while preserving the “essence” of familiar pieces. “Broadway Melody” cuts the tap sequences in favor of a story-line dance, but it works well in this production. Bravo to her staging of “Moses Supposes” for Don and Cosmo, as they tap their way around the diction coach’s office – and even on top of tables, chairs, and each other. It’s the single best dance sequence in the show — but there are many of them.

The rain comes….and it comes on beautifully designed sets by Janine Woods Thoma. Nancy VanOver has designed some wonderful costumes (nobody does those better than Croswell!), and in fact, I’m hard pressed to think of a single theater in the area that has the financial and technical resources to do a show like Singin’ in the Rain the way that Croswell does.

My one quibble — the rain sequence, for all it’s splendor, is mislit. In order for rain effects to work on stage, they must be hung under the strip lighting, and lit with plentiful side and downlight. That is just not possible in Croswell’s limited fly and backstage space. As a result you hear the rain more than see it — it becomes obvious only when umbrellas are opened and water splashes off of them, or Don Lockwood taps around the splash pool that develops onstage. It would have been nice to let the audience see this splendid effect with better lighting.

There are several stage versions of Singin’ in the Rain, and in my opinion, MTI’s current version is not the best stage version available, but it is certainly more assessable for most theaters.  That being said, it’s a crowd-pleaser from beginning to end.

Get your tickets now — this is a hot seller already. Nobody does shows like this better than Croswell — and it’s the best you are going to see there this summer.

Croswell Opera House tickets are available online at croswell.org, or by phone at (517) 264-SHOW.

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