The New York Times - Aug. 2, 2013
The Tappin' Talkies, in a Movie Classic on Stage
A review of 'Singin' in the Rain,' in Patchogue
BY AILEEN JACOBSON
THOSE DANCING FEET are the stars of the show presented in Patchogue by the Gateway Performing Arts Center of Suffolk County — but the show is not “42nd Street.” This one is “Singin’ in the Rain,” a less felicitous translation of a dance-savvy movie into a tap-happy Broadway musical. It shares many of the same elements, including a showbiz setting and a plot involving the vagaries of young love, the machinations of a domineering female star and the rise of a bright-faced ingénue.
Even though the 1952 film “Singin’ in the Rain” is regarded as one of the greatest movie musicals ever made, its stage version received a critical drubbing when it reached Broadway in 1985. The Broadway debut five years earlier of “42nd Street,” based on a 1933 Busby Berkeley extravaganza, had fared much better, critically and at the box office. Still, the Broadway producers of “Singin’ in the Rain” managed to keep it open for nearly a year, and the show has since had successful regional runs.
The Gateway production has much to recommend it, including three charming lead actors who work well together, an enthusiastic supporting cast that knows how to dance, sure-footed direction by Rick Conant (who has a long history with the show as actor, director and choreographer) and joyfully agile choreography by Kelli Barclay, who had the same role in a production in St. Louis directed by Mr. Conant. They still fail to lift the musical to the blissful heights one might expect from a script adapted by Betty Comden and Adolph Green from their movie screenplay and the jaunty score by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed. But the stage adaptation can’t match the movie’s swift pacing, cinematic pizazz and unforgettable central trio of Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds.
Fortunately, Jeremy Benton, who plays the Kelly role of Don Lockwood, doesn’t resemble his predecessor, so no comparisons are provoked. Don is a leading man in swashbuckling silent movies, which are about to be supplanted by talkies. While you could imagine the square-jawed Kelly starring in films featuring period costumes and swordplay, Mr. Benton is more a James Stewart type, decent-seeming, gangly and relaxed. He has a loose-limbed quality that makes his tap dancing particularly appealing.
When he shares the stage with John Scacchetti, who plays his sidekick, Cosmo Brown (the O’Connor role), the two of them synchronize their limbs precisely and are a delight to watch. That is especially true in their first duet, “Fit as a Fiddle,” a flashback to their vaudeville days (when they wear wonderfully garish matching plaid suits designed by Trevor Bowen). It bodes well for the production that Thomas Buono and Aidan Weiler, a couple of youngsters who appear briefly as the young Don and the young Cosmo, tap with equal rhythmic vigor.
The audience gets to see snippets from Don’s films, including “The Royal Rascal,” a grainy black-and-white reel that has realistic-looking titles but is not too interesting to sit through. Cosmo is a pianist who plays during the filming to set the mood for the actors. Mr. Scacchetti has the pleasantly goofy look of a comic actor, and he dances beautifully. But he tries too hard to be funny, which often backfires, most notably in his big solo, “Make ’Em Laugh.” However, he fits in nicely during the sunny “Good Morning” trio, which also includes Shannon O’Bryan as Kathy Selden, the saucy young actress Don falls in love with. Ms. O’Bryan and Mr. Benton, who have played these roles together before, sometimes cast playful looks at each other while they sing and dance, which communicates not only the easy rapport between the characters but the fun that the actors appear to be having.
It turns out that Don’s silent-movie co-star, Lina Lamont, has a screechy voice that will be impossible to use in talking films. The proposed solution is for Kathy to dub Lina’s speaking voice and, when it’s decided the next film is to be a musical, her singing voice as well. Gretchen Bieber handles her egotistic villainess role with brio, in her spoken words and in her funny lament, “What’s Wrong With Me?” In smaller parts, David Raimo sings smoothly in “Beautiful Girl,” and Steve Brady and David Arthur bring life to their roles as a studio head and a director.
A stairway that appears in some scenes is put to good use by the stars and ensemble, who dance down it nimbly as Jeff Hoffman, the musical director, and his six-person orchestra provide a lush accompaniment to tapping feet. Though the score includes many melodic songs — “You Are My Lucky Star” among them — the title song stands out. An adequate amount of falling water creates real puddles for Mr. Benton to splash through, which he accomplishes exuberantly while twirling the number’s trademark umbrella.
Read the original article at: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/04/nyregion/a-review-of-singin-in-the-rain-in-patchogue.html?_r=0
TheImproper.com - Aug. 2, 2013
Jeremy Benton, Gretchen Bieber Lift Patchogue's 'Singin in the Rain'
BY IRIS WEINER
Jeremy Benton and Gretchen Bieber are magical in Singin’ in the Rain at the Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts. And rain it does: Laughs, fancy footwork and melodious tunes are awash in real water.
In a space comparable to the comfort of a Broadway theater, Director Rick Conant’s incarnation of the hit musical, running through Aug. 10, lives up to the show’s reputation as one of the best to ever hit the stage.
Conant directs a large cast of talented actors, all of whom are decked out in impeccable 1920s garb. Benton is adept at playing a famous everyman, and is dashing and humorous in all the right places.
Adapted from the original screenplay by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, with songs by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed, Singin’ in the Rain is an easily accessible, romantic comedy.
It follows fading silent screen stars Don Lockwood (Benton) and Lina Lamont (Bieber) as they try to hang on to their lustrous careers despite the advent of the talkie, and the challenge of Lamont’s squealing voice.
Fellow performers Cosmo Brown (John Scacchetti) and aspiring actress Kathy Selden (Shannon O’Bryan) join down-on-his-luck Lockwood to turn his film, “The Dueling Cavalier” into “The Dancing Cavalier.” But Selden must perform Lamont’s vocals.
Bieber is sensationally grating and dopey as Lamont. Her hilariously over-the-top dialect is brilliant, especially when Lina must take elocution lessons to improve her performance in front of the camera. Her big Act II number, “What’s Wrong With Me?” is ironic, only in the sense that Bieber’s performance is perfect.
O’Bryan’s voice is well-toned and strong, and she gives Selden a fun, sassy edge.
Only Cosmo feels a bit miscast. But Scacchetti has a lot to live up to. Donald O’Connor won a Golden Globe for the role when he starred in the 1952 film. Scacchetti’s rendition of “Make ‘Em Laugh” seems to do anything but. It suffers from awkward pauses and poorly directed use of significant props.
Though Kelli Barclay’s choreography is a bit safe at times, it is entertaining in such numbers as “Good Mornin’,” when the actors tap up and down stairs and flip a couch onto its back.
“Singin’ in the Rain” is also a high point, as Benton struts through cascading rain, tipping his hat and umbrella to passersby. In the show-stopping Broadway number, Barclay’s moves are energetic and well-synchronized. However, the real pop in the production comes from Trevor Bowen’s costumes.
Never does the stage not dazzle with sparkles, feathers and fringe, a constant complement to the actors’ talents and Jeff Modereger’s well-designed sets. From Graumann’s Chinese Theatre to a studio mansion, the stage is transformed with minimal pieces.
Whether you’re experiencing Singin’ in the Rain for the first time or the 50th, and whether you’ve seen it on stage or on screen, the Patchogue Theatre’s production will feel revitalizing and different.
The show is an enjoyable reminder as to what makes musical theater on Long Island so special.
Read the original article at: http://www.theimproper.com/theater/2219/jeremy-benton-gretchen-bieber-lift-patchogues-singin-in-the-rain/
The Long Island Advance - Aug. 1, 2013
A stylish musical that sings with talent
'Singin' in the Rain' is lighthearted fun at the Patchogue Theatre
BY LINDA LEUZZI
There’s a reason why “Singin’ in the Rain,” a movie from over 60 years ago, holds the No. 1 slot in the American Film Festival’s greatest movie musicals category. Gene Kelly’s iconic dancing, dripping wet with an umbrella (he had a bad cold and struggled to keep warm between breaks), professing love for his girl, ricochets thought the decades with its unbridled joy and grace.
But besides that, the story of cocky silent screen actor Don Lockwood making his transition to the talkies, his screeching film partner Lina Lamont trying to hold onto her fame, Lockwood’s spunky love interest Kathy Selden, and the energetic straight-man friend of his youth, Cosmo Brown, was such a clever, funny screenplay by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, it just endured famously through the ages.
And it still does. A classy romance is nice to see these days and the chemistry between Don (Jeremy Benton) and Kathy (Shannon O’Bryan) is a charming believer. Selden’s voice in classics like “You are My Lucky Star” is lovely and clear; optimistic and fun in “Good Mornin.’”
Benton, straight from the national tour of “Anything Goes,” sings and taps effortlessly up and down stairs, over couches, on ladders; he has the skill and looks of a younger Randy Skinner, the famous choreographer, and yes, he does the famous scene – rain and all – on the stage of the Patchogue Theatre.
John Scacchetti gets the zany, unflappable Cosmo Brown character and his limber dancing especially, in the “Moses” diction-jabbing number with his friend Don.
And, oh, that Lina Lamont, played by Gretchen Bieber. Whether she’s trying to enunciate a line like “an’ I caaaaaaan’t staaaaand ‘im,” mercilessly slicing off the top of her “a’s,” or her simpering, self-absorbed, exasperated scene with a recording microphone stuffed in her bosom while her studio attempts to make the talkie transition, this Lina has us.
Director Rick Conant performed Cosmo Brown in the original “Singin’ in the Rain” national touring company in 1986. He was nominated for a Kevin Kline Award (outstanding director of a musical) for “Singin’ in the Rain” at the MUNY Opera for the St. Louis production. He’s also staged productions around the world.
Kelly, who had met screenwriters Comden and Green at a summer theater in a revue in 1939, already had a long association with them when “Singin’” emerged.
“The screenplay is so great, you can’t beat it, but in the original production, in a lot of the scenes they took the air out of it,” he said. “The love interest is central and Lina Lamont has to be there and people have to care. I restored that to round out the characters more.”
Conant elaborated a bit about the Lina Lamont role. “Often she’s a cartoon character, but with Gretchen, there was something going on. There was really a depth to it. When she’s singing her song, “What’s Wrong With Me,” you sympathize with her and then at the end, you hate her again.”
The black-and-white silent screen projections were actually shot outside on Gateway grounds. (Quite a coup, with only having two weeks to rehearse.) Conant nixed a stage setting. “We decided to do it outdoors at the end of the day,” he said. “There were two big trees and it was right outside the Gateway office.”
Choreographer Kelli Barclay has done many City Center productions (Barclay was nominated for the Kevin Kline Award for best choreography of MUNY’s “Singin’ in the Rain”). David Raimo, who plays the Production Tenor, looks like a 1940s matinee idol and sounds like one with his wonderful voice as a line of gorgeous women sweep past him. Megan Kelly, the Girl in Green who dances with Benton in the “Gotta Dance” number, performed by Cyd Charisse in the movie, is frankly, astounding, with her sinuous, lithe movies. There’s particulary frank attention to detail with the sets, posters of D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation” and Douglas Fairbanks’ “Thief of Baghdad” are just some of the touches. And the costumes are lovely and truly period-based.
There’s just a lot to say about his flawless production and its creative essence, collaborated during a time when people needed its light; we still do today.
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BroadwayWorld.com - July 31, 2013
BWW Reviews: The Gateway's SINGIN' IN THE RAIN
BY MELISSA GIORDANO
Singin' In The Rain, the Tony nominated musical based on the famous MGM film, is certainly a must see among theatre attendees. With a screenplay by Betty Comden & Adolph Green and music by Nacio Herb Brown & Arthur Reed, Gateway's fantastic incarnation runs through August 10th and will surely have you leaving the theatre with a smile.
Playing at their Patchogue location in the midst of their 64th season, the wonderful Rick Conant directed cast is headed up by Jeremy Benton (42nd Street, Anything Goes National Tour), Shannon O'Bryan (White Christmas, 42nd Street), John Scacchetti (42nd Street and Gypsy), and Gretchen Bieber (Hairspray). The large cast is truly remarkable. One person in the audience even said to me she saw a lot of the emotion and mannerisms from the movie well emulated on Gateway stage.
The story follows Don Lockwood (Mr. Benton), a silent film star who barely tolerates his annoying and meddlesome leading lady, Lina Lamont (Ms. Bieber). They are actually not a couple - strictly colleagues - but Lina is convinced that their screen romance is real. These two were wonderfully cast for this production. Mr. Benton definitely had a great 1930's tone to his voice and look. After all, his was Gene Kelly's role in the classic movie. Additionally, his fantastic rendition of the iconic "Singin' In The Rain" at the end of Act 1, complete with sheets of rain coming down from the rafters, practically got a standing ovation.
As for Ms. Bieber, her performance brought roars of laughter from the audience. You see, while gorgeous for the big screen, Lina's speaking voice is less than desirable, making her, shall we say, perfect for silent films. Ms., Bieber spectacularly delivered with an over the top shrill of a voice.
As the first ever talking picture proves to be a hit, the head of their studio, R. F. Simpson, portrayed by Gateway vet Steve Brady, decides to convert the new Lockwood and Lamont film into "a talkie". The production is beset with problems with the worst being Lina's comically grating voice. It is CosMo Brown, portrayed by Mr. Scacchetti, who comes up with the idea to dub Lina's voice - both singing and speaking. Mr. Scacchetti was wonderful as Cosmo who is Don's childhood friend and the studio's head musician. He and Mr. Benton did some incredible tap numbers including "Moses" in Act One and "Broadway Melody" in Act Two.
Don falls for aspiring actress Kathy Selden (Ms. O'Bryan) who has a spectacular voice and agrees to provide the dubbed voice for Lina without her knowing. When Lina found out, though, she flew into a rage and did everything possible to sabotage Selden and her budding romance with Don. Ms. O'Bryan was wonderful as Kathy. Kind of "the girl next door", an audience favorite was her beautiful rendition of "You Are My Lucky Star" in addition to "Good Morning" with Mr. Benton and Mr. Scacchetti.
In addition to the divine cast and fun score - musical direction superbly done by Jeff Hoffman with a fantastic orchestra - the costumes, done by Trevor Bowen, were stunning as well. Yellow colored rain coats and umbrellas adorned the cast for the big final number. Also flapper style dresses and coat tails were of abundance.
Indeed, you will be happily singin' in any type of weather once you've seen this production. A wonderful cast, a fun score, and the beautiful Patchogue Theatre prove a classic never goes out of style.
Read the original article at: http://longisland.broadwayworld.com/article/BWW-Reviews-The-Gateways-SINGIN-IN-THE-RAIN-20130731
Newsday - July 30, 2013
'Singin' in the Rain' Review
BY STEVE PARKS
Before you head out, you want to know the weather forecast. During Gateway Playhouse's Patchogue Theatre gig -- although it's indoors -- count on sustained cloudbursts throughout the run of "Singin' in the Rain."
If you're sitting in the front row, consider bringing beach towels to absorb the splash. You never know about extreme weather events in this era of climate change -- indoors or out.
Now, back to the news in review.
As directed by Rich Conant and amplified by Jeff Hoffman's old-timey orchestra, Gateway's "Rain" falls most felicitously on nostalgic ears. If you have no appreciation for quarter- to mid-20th century musicals, especially movie musicals -- this title is most famous for the latter, starring Gene Kelly in 1952 -- all the singing and dancing may be for naught.
The scene is Hollywood, 1927. "The Jazz Singer" will send silent flicks into oblivion, ruining Monumental Pictures. (Steve Brady plays the studio's gently authoritarian mogul.) But it especially threatens Lina Lamont (comically game Gretchen Bieber), whose voice approximates chalkboard scratching. Her leading-man opposite, Don Lockwood (a handsomely approachable boy-next-door as played by Jeremy Benton), could make the talkie transition. But he lacks confidence -- especially after bumping into a theater snob who aspires to be a stage thespian, Kathy Selden (Shannon O'Bryan).
Predictably, Don and Kathy fall in love, chastely. (He escorts her home during a middle-of-the-night rainstorm to Miss Simpleton's Accommodations for Young Women.) Though Benton's suit never dampens, he sings and dances a reasonable facsimile of the title number closing Act I. Meanwhile, O'Bryan appeared to be thrown by a microphone issue on "All I Do Is Dream of You," from which she never quite recovered -- likely a one-night-only mishap.
John Scacchetti plays the composer who rescues the talking musical that will make or break Monumental Pictures (amusing film clips are screened as evidence). Scacchetti doesn't quite steal the scene in his terribly dated -- hey, this is 1927 -- antics.
But it's the Don-Kathy-Lina love/hate triangle that drives the drama, such as it is. Lina believes the publicity about her romance with Don and won't let go of the commercial fiction.
Lavish period sets and costumes by Jeff Modereger and Trevor Bowen, respectively, establish the Hollywood extravagance. The '29 market crash is nowhere in sight and, thanks to Kelli Barclay's relentless choreography, it's a Roaring '20s dance-till-you-drop vibe.
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Smithtown Matters - July 27, 2013
Theater Review: Singin' in the Rain
BY JEB LADOUCER
When Jeremy Benton, Shannon O’Bryan, and John Scacchetti signed on for the key roles in this slickest of Long Island stage shows, they had to know the size of the shoes they’d be asked to fill. Indeed, the 1952 motion picture “Singin’ in the Rain” starring Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald O’Connor was voted the best film musical of all time by the American Film Institute. Happily, the trio was not intimidated, and the upshot is that we Islanders are being treated to a solid gold smash musical thru August 10th. The venue is the South Shore’s magnificent Patchogue Theater.
The Justifiably famed Gateway Playhouse isn’t the first organization to stage Betty Comden and Adolph Green’s classic film—that distinction was earned by the London Palladium in 1983, after which the show was snatched-up by Broadway in 1985 and performed more than 400 times at the Gershwin Theater. Though “Singin’s” year-long run was modest, critics loved the play and it has since garnered nine international award nominations, including a couple of Tony nods.
But it was the movie that really won the hearts of the theater-going public. Accordingly The Gateway, under director Rick Conant and choreographer Kelli Barclay, has wisely chosen to follow Hollywood’s version of the show, and the result is a smooth-as-silk offering that will be talked about in entertainment circles for a long time to come.
Of course, the prime contributors to this landmark production are the three multi-talented stars, Benton, O’Bryan, and Scacchetti (who play Don Lockwood, Kathy Selden, and Cosmo Brown respectively). All act, sing, and dance with equal excellence. One wonders how they manage to inject so much flair, grace, and stamina into every song they interpret. Here it should be said that the show-stopping number they perform together, “Good Mornin’,” is alone worth the price of admission.
But there are eighteen other tunes in this amazingly lyrical show, and every one (even the not to be taken seriously parody, “Would You?”) feels tailor-made to the Comden-Green story. Notable among the ballads are the three “You” pieces, “You Stepped Out of a Dream”, “You Are My Lucky Star”, and “You Were Meant for Me.” (Purists might insist on adding the charming “All I do is Dream of You.” Good enough.)
While every musical comedy seems to have a double-jointed, double-taking freewheeler, very few can boast the inclusion of an honest-to-God clown like John Scacchetti. The young actor is perfectly cast as leading man Don Lockwood’s sidekick, Cosmo Brown. When Scacchetti is finished with his “Make ‘Em Laugh” routine (falling over a sofa, taking repeated smacks by men carrying a board, running through a brick wall—among other misadventures) you’ll find yourself gasping for air. The guy’s endurance is incredible! What’s more he’s singing on key and doesn’t miss a dance step the whole time.
Scacchetti’s female counterpart is the comedic “Lina Lamont”, played by stage-savvy Gretchen Bieber. Her screeching voice (like fingernails scraping a blackboard) provides the play’s theme. Without the ingénue’s unique ability to affect the ‘dumb blonde’ mystique while looking like a million bucks, the show would never work.
As for the other players in this Gateway winner—I didn’t see a clinker in the 20-person ensemble on Press Night. They were precise, charmingly costumed, and obviously having great fun as they romped across a wonderfully adaptable, beautifully lit set—which does get rained on, as a matter of fact!
Read the original article at: http://www.smithtownmatters.com/community-matters/2013/7/27/theater-review-singin-in-the-rain.html