THEATRE REVIEW: Downpour of fun
Those with front row seats to the current musical production at the Plaza Theatre Company will be sitting in the rain during “Singing in the Rain,” the show’s title song. Saturday night it sold out.
As PTC regulars have learned, it’s what to expect from this clever and creative 11-year-old theatre group that realizes it cannot duplicate the spectacular visuals from one of the most-watched movies of all time. However, it can do itself proud with what it’s got: good singers, great dancers, wonderful costumes and the ability to do it “their way.”
They do, and it’s a delight, including a ceiling sprinkler system that spews a torrential downpour for the show’s most popular number that concludes the one-hour and 10 minute first act. Even the playbill plays a part as it announces, “There will be a 15-minute intermission while we wait for the weather to clear.”
Because I didn’t expect to see anything that would closely resemble what Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Conner delivered in the 1952 MGM movie, I never found myself making comparisons, just enjoying what was offered for what it is: outstanding community theater.
Yet, there are some show stoppers that rank right up there with anything PTC has done since raising the curtain in 2006. Certainly, the show’s finale of the title song, featuring the entire 21-person ensemble clad in bright yellow rain coats and twirling multi-colored umbrellas, is certainly one. Another is the rendition by Stephen Singleton of “Make ‘Em Laugh,” the great O’Conner performance of comic dancing, acrobatics and singing. It’s one of the best PTC solo performances in recent memory.
Singleton plays Cosmo Brown, who writes all the songs for the Don Lockwood-Lina Lamont musicals. He is Lockwood’s best buddy.
All the numbers are catchy and snappy, but I had forgotten how clever “Moses Supposes,” a tongue-twisting ditty that has clever words and rapid-fire dancing, truly is.
Also outstanding is the choreography directed by Tabitha (Barrus) Ibarra and the costumes designed by Tina Barrus, the daughter-mother team who both, somehow, manage to have leading roles. Ibarra is double cast with Jill Baker, as Kathy Selden (the Reynolds part from the movie). Barrus is double cast with Milette Siler as Lina Lamont, the fingernails-on-a-chalkboard voiced starlet whose career is threatened as 1927 Hollywood transitions from silent films to talkies.
The live action on the stage floor of the 160-seat theater-in-the-round is complimented by a large-screen video that shows Selden and leading man Lockwood (played by Matt Victory in the Kelly role from the movie) in humorous scenes from their last silent film hit, “The Royal Rascal.”
Lockwood and Lamont work for Monumental Pictures, whose owner, R.F. Simpson, is played by the venerable and versatile Jay Cornils. This is his third consecutive PTC production and 36th Plaza show overall.
The tension mounts as Lamont is bonkers over Lockwood. She thinks he likes her, but he doesn’t. When Lockwood meets Selden, she is not impressed with him or his acting ability. Meanwhile, a rival studio has released the first talking picture, “The Jazz Singer,” forcing Simpson into making the next Lockwood and Lamont picture a “talky.”
When the boys learn that Selden can really sing, they substitute her voice for Lamont’s. When Lamont is asked to sing at a premier party with the media, Selden agrees to go behind the curtain and sing as Lamont lip synchs. However, the boys raise the curtain and the rest is history.
You gotta see it. Just sit back and enjoy one snappy tune after another – favorites you’ve hummed for years, such as “Fit as a Fiddle,” “All I do is Dream of You,” “You Were Meant for Me,” the catchy “Good Morning,” which lives on in orange juice commercials, and, of course, the great “Singing in the Rain.”
The latter is sung and danced by Victory, who is quickly becoming a PTC reoccurring favorite after returning home to Cleburne after getting a degree at Harvard. He also spent nine years as a hedge fund trader near New York City.
Community theater is richer for his return.
“Singing in the Rain,” is from a screenplay by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, with songs by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed, directed by JaceSon P. Barrus, with music direction and choreography by Tabitha Ibarra, and costume design by Tina Barrus, light design by Cameron Barrus, and sound design by G. Aaron Siler, who also served as videographer and video editor.
The show is presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Saturdays through April 22 at the Plaza Theatre, 111 S. Main St. in Cleburne.
Tickets — $18 for adults, $16 for students and senior adults age 65 and older, and $13 for ages 12 and under — are on sale at the box office and can be reserved by calling 817-202-0600, or purchased online at www. plaza-theatre.com.