ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Roger Ebert once said that the 1952 movie “Singin’ in the Rain” is the best Hollywood musical ever made. The film repeatedly makes the top 100 films of all time – often the top 10 – as determined by critics asked by “Sight and Sound” international film magazine, who conduct the poll every decade. The theatrical adaptation of “Singin’ in the Rain” premiered in London in 1983 and can now be seen at Albuquerque Little Theatre in a very entertaining production directed by ALT artistic director Henry Avery.
“Singin’ in the Rain” tells the story of silent era movie star Don Lockwood, his friend and partner Cosmo Brown, and aspiring stage actress Kathy Seldon. Lockwood and actress Lina Lamont are a big box office draw, the Brad and Angelina of their day; he can’t stand her but the public thinks they are in love and rumors of their impending marriage boost ticket sales. However, it’s 1927 and talkies threaten to expunge silent film forever. Unfortunately for Lina, she has an obnoxious voice and is practically illiterate.
Avery has a great cast, with David Bello admirably taking on the role of Lockwood, originally played by Gene Kelly. Nobody can dance like Kelly, of course, but Bello has charm, poise, talent and good looks, and is terrific in the role.
Janine O’Neill-Loffelmacher is delightful as Kathy.
One of the best numbers in the film and also in this production is Cosmo’s “Make ‘Em Laugh.”
Jordon Embree has just the right level of comic nonchalance as Lockwood’s pianist and composer, as well as the talent for slapstick to lift “Make ‘Em Laugh” into one of the highlights of the show.
“Singin’ in the Rain’s” success depends on these three actors, and Bello, O’Neill-Loffelmacher and Embree have remarkable chemistry.
But I would be remiss if I did not mention Lisette Mowry, who is fabulous as the ditzy star with the atrocious voice, Lina. It’s a comic tour de force performance.
Avery has a strong ensemble to complement these four actors, and a couple of great dancers (such as Michelle Eiland, who is superb as the Lady in Green).
This is a multi-media production, with wonderfully authentic video simulations of golden era silent films; and if it were not that the actors from this production are clearly the actors in the film sequences, I would swear they were genuine silent films of a hundred years ago. The actors capture the melodramatic 1920s acting style perfectly, and director and videographer Keagan Karnes the grainy texture of primitive film.
The play sticks very close to the original movie. There is real “rain” so you might get wet if you are in the first row. Joe Moncada’s costume design is brilliant, matching the vibrant colors of the film that many will be familiar with. Especially great is the last number, a reprise of “Singin’ in the Rain” with the entire cast wearing bright yellow raincoats and carrying black umbrellas against a bright blue backdrop. This is a lot of fun.
“Singin’ in the Rain” is playing through June 16 at Albuquerque Little Theatre in Old Town. Go to albuquerquelittletheatre.org or call 242-4750 for reservations.