OFF BEAT

OFFBEAT: 'Singin' in the Rain' at Drury Lane a downpour of talent

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2012-12-04T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: 'Singin' in the Rain' at Drury Lane a downpour of talentPhilip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

Everyone knows the popular expression, "when it rains, it pours."

It was about a decade ago that stage versions of "Singin' in the Rain" seemed to be more plentiful than the famed raindrops that inspire the name of this legendary musical.

In April 2003, a production of "Singin' in the Rain" headed by director and choreographer Marc Robin played a good part of the summer at the now gone Drury Lane Theater Martinique in Evergreen Park, Ill. and then moved to the Chicago Center for Performing Arts for an extension. And by Christmas that year, Theatre at the Center in Munster also discovered applause as loud as thunder in a rainstorm with another mounting.

But in recent years, it's been a drought as far as any new productions of this hum-along tale inspired by the 1952 film starring Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Connor and Jean Hagen, which was named "the No. 1 Greatest Movie Musical of all time" by the American Film Institute.

Fortunately for audiences old and new, Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill. is making a splash with a new incarnation of "Singin' in the Rain," which finally "officially" opened over the weekend after a couple weeks of delays. Last month, New York actor Sean Palmer, who had the Gene Kelly lead role, had to drop out of the production Nov. 14 after an injury.

Running through Jan. 13, 2013, the new starring lead for this run of "Singin' in the Rain" is the incomparable Tony Yazbeck as Don Lockwood. He's opposite Jenny Guse in the Debbie Reynolds role of Kathy Selden, and Matthew Crowle is "Cosmo," the silly, fun comedy relief role originally played by Donald O'Connor.

Set in glitzy, glamorous Hollywood in the 1920s, this lighthearted and funny tale centers on a film star who finds love while navigating the ever-changing world of showbiz just as "talking pictures" are threatening to bring an end to the age of the silent film era. 

With choreography by Amber Mak and directed by Bill Jenkins, all of the favorite numbers like "Good Morning," "Make “em Laugh," "Moses Supposes" and "Singin’ in the Rain," are as bright and bouncy as ever.

The choreography feels a little more restrained compared to my memories of the other productions I mentioned earlier.

Crowle isn't "running up the side of walls" and Yazbeck doesn't splash and thrash in the puddles as much as he could. (Is there a fear that insurance agents are watching every step of this production for further liabilities?)

At her best, is actress Melissa Van Der Schyff as screeching starlet Lina Lamont, the role immortalized by Jean Hagen.

The clever folks at Drury Lane and those in the know heading this production even found a way to sneak in a very special cameo by the real Debbie Reynolds (who performed on the Drury Lane stage just a couple months ago).

The show also stars Don Forston as studio head R.F. Simpson, with Scott Calcagno as frazzled director Roscoe Dexter, Jeff Award winners John Reeger as a fussy Diction Coach and Renee Matthews as gossip columnist Dora Bailey.

This dripping with talent telling is not to be missed. After all, it might be a while before it's back again and we are showered with this much talent.

Tickets are $35 to $68 with lunch and dinner theater packages available at (630) 530-0111 or drurylaneoakbrook.com.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or (219) 852-4327.

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