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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Glorious Feeling

From the Vault Dept.: Schenectady’s Proctors Theatre recently announced its 2013-14 Broadway season, and as a reminder that they’re old hands at bringing in what’s recently been sprung from the Manhattan stage, here’s my review of one such show that arrived a quarter-century ago.


THE SUCCESS THIS MUSICAL has had on stage is a tribute to the ghosts it must overcome. Written as it was for the screen, and showcasing the dancing talents of Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor, it was a big hit for MGM in 1952, a peak of collaboration among Kelly, co-director Stanley Donen, and scriptwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green.

A far more recent production.
They had a built-in success factor with the songs, by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown, and an irreverent, self-referential story that poked fun at the emergence in the late '20s of talking pictures.

Perhaps the wisest act of the producers who placed the show onstage was to stay very close to the original. Choreographer Kathryn Kendall has stayed close to the original Kelly-Donen routines, too, so in many ways it's like revisiting the motion picture – the same formula that works for the stage version of The Wizard of Oz.

Jay Cranford and Jimmy Bushin have the onerous jobs of reliving the Kelly and O'Connor roles, and they do it with a lot of talent and, in Bushin's case, personality – although it's always easier for the clown to have a more distinct personality. Both are tremendously good dancers. Cranford needs to get away from his vocal coach and add some style to his singing – he does it well, but that's not so unique. He sounds like any boy tenor.

Liz Ward, in the Debbie Reynolds role of Kathy Selden has an appealing personality and nice way with the ballads, although she, too, could go farther with the songs. The role doesn't demand much characterization besides pertness (our favorite '50s women always were pert, the Allyson-Reynolds-Day disease), so it's hers to run with.

A far more recent Jay Cranford photo.
The caricature parts are served well. Liz McCarthy chews the walls as shrill Lina Lamont, and she gets a dandy song, too, in the second act; Joe Inscoe's studio head has a marvellously flocculent brain.

This is one of those rare shows that gives us a stage full of tap dancing, for which I'm a sucker, and the cast just sails in those noisy shoes. Without the magic of a mobile camera, however, they need to work the stage to stay interesting; the “Broadway Melody” sequence could therefore be a little more inventive.

Of course, the rain steals the show. Talk about splashy effects. Too bad Cranford has to compete with machinery in his big number, but that seems to be the modern Broadway way. Keeping a damp watch on the proceedings was our own David Allan as the cop who cuts short the title number. Despite his efforts, there wasn't a dry eye on stage.

Singin’ in the Rain
Directed by Thomas P. Carr
Proctor's Theatre, Oct. 16, 1987

Metroland Magazine, 22 October 1987

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