Decades before the film and stage show of Singin in the Rain, hoofers were splashing in fake rain with umbrellas. The old theater favorite became the number one song in 1929 and keeps on going. Used in more than a handful of films and a Volkswagon commercial, the rain dance ala Gene Kelly tops San Diego Musical Theatre’s production at the Spreckels Theatre.
Brandon Davidson’s splashy shuffles and leaps onto a lamp post are stellar in the title song. The scene taps into a universal love of playing in puddles and breaking rules. We tap along in our seats and squeal when he puts his head under a drain pipe with water pouring out. His playful joy matches ours as we relish heavenly rain in May, until reality sets in. This is a spritz in a drought.
After watching the first hour and forty minutes of Singin’ in the Rain, a fabulously cast and unabashedly corny romantic comedy, one has to decide whether to stay beyond the splashy title song and dance.
The production boasts 19 scenes, many with smart tap dancing. Everyone seems to be wearing tap shoes. Still, the production suffers from a glued together score and bloats to nearly three hours because of soggy pacing. (On opening night, an intermission ran overly long, and many gave up waiting in lines for beverages. They need more bars and professional bartenders).
Spoofing the turmoil in Hollywoodland when movies shifted from silent to sound in the 1920s, we follow Don Lockwood, the silent-film star played by Davidson, and his piano man sidekick Cosmo Brown, played by a bouncy Cameron Lewis.
Their leading lady, a bombshell played by Andi Davis, has a voice so grating they have to bring in a chorus girl to dub her speaking and singing. Her solo “What’s Wrong with Me” is hilarious but her screeching shtick grows old quick. Brittan Rose Hammond charms in every possible way as the stand-in Kathy Selden. If only she had more to do with her heart throb Don. The show is kiss happy. Long kisses become filler.
“In the film version, Kathy Selden, played by Debbie Reynolds, is dubbing the voice of Lina Lamont, for actress Jean Hagen. But it is not Reynolds speaking. It’s Jean Hagen, who had a deep rich voice. So Jean is dubbing Debbie dubbing Jean…”
Fans of the movie (and assorted chick flicks) might be thrilled to immerse themselves in the romantic comedy, a completely wooden plot with Lina mistaking her screen romance with Don in “The Royal Rascal” as real and later trying to take over Monumental Studios.
Charleston, soft shoe, buffaloes, cabrioles, and time steps abound, and choreographer Jill Gorrie keeps the 29-member cast tapping. Along with the title song and dance, Don, Cosmo and Kathy sparkle in “Good Morning.” John Wescott as the intensely proper diction coach steals the “Moses supposes his toeses are roses” scene. “He sipped his snifter” and other tongue twisters are especially crisp and funny. Costumes range from flapper fringe and barely there body suits to tuxes and yellow rain coats. There’s one gorilla suit.
Don LeMaster directs a 20-piece orchestra, which sounds terrific even with eyes closed. Still, the music never finds its sweet spot because of the odd theatrical structure. Lights come up and go off. Songs start and stop. The big number “Broadway Ballet – Gotta Dance” looks and sounds okay but drops in from another film. The show feels chopped and glued together because the film score is a bunch of old songs by Nacio Herb Brown and lyricist Arthur Freed. Cosmo’s “Make ‘Em Laugh” and “Moses Supposes” are the only songs written for the film. While that can’t be fixed, body microphone crackles and achingly slow scene changes can get rinsed out as the show progresses.
As much as the sumptuous rainy dance on stage, grainy films of Lina and Don in their first attempts at talkies float this production to a higher level. The leads are adorable in black and white, even Lina. “Oh Philippe, you shouldn’t have come…” she squawks. We can’t help but laugh at their voices out of sync and the irony of it all. One can imagine wide-eyed audiences experiencing talkies for the first time in the historic Spreckels Theatre.
Singin’ In The Rain runs through June 7 at the Spreckels Theatre, 121 Broadway. Run Time: 2 hrs. 50 mins.