Monday, August 19, 2013 at 9:12 a.m.
Jeffrey C. Nelson, Holli Richgels and C. Ryan Shipley.
Photo courtesy Bloomington Civic Theatre
The original Singin' in the Rain had a simple mission: Pull together some old songs, weave a silly story around it, and use it as a vehicle for some extremely talented performers.
The stage musical version has been kicking around for three decades, but productions of it has never recaptured the spark of the original, including the hard-working company at Bloomington Civic Theatre.
Some of that lies with the original talented trio I mentioned. Gene Kelly starred and choreographed the film, aided by the rubbery physicality of Donald O'Connor, and buoyed by the fresh-faced talent of Debbie Reynolds. That's a lot of star power to contend with in a fresh stage production.
Beyond that is the stage musical itself. Originally conceived and created for the screen, the story in Singin' in the Rain doesn't translate particularly well to the stage. The first act ends about three-quarters of the way through the story, meaning there is plenty of filler in the second half.
To their credit, the creators and performers here do a solid job from beginning to end to make the broken musical work as best it can. That starts with director and choreographer Michael Matthew Ferrell, who wrestles with translating filmed dance numbers to the stage.
Some of these work better than others. "Moses Supposes" explodes into an acrobatic, full-stage dance off. "Make 'Em Laugh" gives us a string of pratfalls and hijinks (though no running up any walls; that's likely a lot to ask for without the aid of retakes and cuts).
The iconic title song comes off fairly well, though there is only a tiny bit of actual water, falling through a downspout, onstage. Even a puddle or two might have helped to bring out a bit more spirit to the number.
The main trio here does good work as well, with C. Ryan Shipley oozing likable charm as Don Lockwood and Holli Richgels providing the spunk, if maybe not the right level of vulnerability as young starlet-to-be Kathy Selden. At times, Jeffrey C. Nelson seems to be playing Donald O'Connor playing Cosmo Brown, but his loose-limbed dancing eventually wins the day.
In his notes, director Ferrell talks up conductor Anita Ruth and the 22-piece orchestra and let me echo that sentiment. After hearing so much synthesized strings and brass at musicals, it is just delightful to hear the full, real sound of the instruments.
Singin' in the Rain
Through Sept. 15
Bloomington Center for the Arts, 1800 W. Old Shakopee Road, Bloomington
For tickets and more information, call 952.563.8575 or visit online.