|Jamey Grisham as Don Lockwood|
in "Singin' in the Rain" at the Barn Theatre - 2016
I wish you were here. You would have loved this show.
I am already pre-disposed to the positive with my reviews. My goal is to encourage people to go to the live theatre not to nit-pick minor flaws, many of which many be corrected in subsequent performances. I felt this one was pretty much without flaw, though. At least, I did not find any major issues worthy of my limited space in the newspaper.
But then, I am a big lover of Singin' in the Rain. It's one of my top five favorite movies ever out of all movies, regardless of genre. So I will admit that I am biased. But, really, that bias could work against this production and its performers, as I might be even more critical. And yet, I felt that these performers lived up to the legacy. I mean, truly, no one can be Gene Kelly or Donald O'Connor, but the performers can be worthy in both their homage and their original spin on the classic role.
Many people in the audience told me that they though Sam Balzac as Cosmo Brown was a stand out. I agree that he was excellent, but I did not think he was any better than the other performers. And he was notably a step behind, a bit slower than, Donald O'Connor. On the other hand, Balzac is farther away and on stage, so O'Connor was probably aided by the screen and close ups in the film. Balzac starts his senior year at Columbia University after this show. As his first plum role at the Barn, the audience is eager to see Balzac return for more.
But the Barn has a stable of super talented performers. I have enjoyed Jamey Grisham's work for many years. Grisham is very successful and had an off-season touring the world with Celebrity Equinox. Though I have trouble watching Jamey work without seeing the reflections of his work as Tarzan recently at the Barn. Jamey has a BFA from Roosevelt University and an MFA from Brown University, which is no small shakes. He's a gem, and the Barn is lucky to have him.
Hannah Eakin has earned a spot as one of my favorite actresses at the Barn on the strength of this role alone. I was not thrilled with some of her previous work at the Barn, but this role helps her accentuate her classic movie star looks and she managed to sing and act the Hell out of it. Eakin graduated from Oklahoma City University. She earned her Equity status last year and returns to the Barn as an Equity resident. Hannah lives in New York in the off-season.
So those are some of my remarks beyond what was published in the review. I added some biographical information and more of a critical eye along with the my peculiarities, things I would not publish in my review.
But I LOVE Singin' in the Rain, and I loved this production.
Following find the link to the newspaper's publication and then the text of my review as I sent it to the paper.
This is my last Barn show of the season. I am sad, but also looking forward to next year.
BATTLE CREEK ENQUIRER LINK TO REVIEW
|Sam Balzac as Cosmo Brown, left, Hannah Eakin as Kathy Seldon, and Jamey Grisham as Don Lockwood, right|
"Singin’ in the Rain”
a production of the Barn Theatre
at the Barn Theatre, Augusta, MI
Attended Date: August 16, 2016
reviewed by Christopher Tower
When an audience leaves a theater humming and whistling the tunes, it’s a winner. The Barn Theatre scored a big winner in its with the film classic turned musical “Singin’ in the Rain” on Tuesday night.
The classic story of love and the early days of Hollywood enjoyed some local love when a couple was invited up on stage during the pre-show speech for a marriage proposal. The groom had arranged the special moment with the Barn Theatre, bent down on one knee, and proposed. The moment set the tone for the evening, which featured love, laughter, and one of the most joyful song-dance numbers in cinema history: the famous “Singin’ in the Rain” number made famous by Gene Kelly.
One of the greatest strengths of the Barn’s production is how close the performers come to the roles made so famous by Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and Debbie Reynolds in the 1952 MGM film, which is considered the fifth greatest film in motion picture history according to the American Film Institute. It is also commonly regarded as the best movie musical ever made, and this production loses nothing of that excellence in the translation to the stage.
Though nearly everyone is acquainted with the eponymous title song, the story may be unfamiliar to some who have not seen the movie despite its accolades and popularity. The story centers on Monumental Pictures in 1927, whose stars Don Lockwood (Jamey Grisham) and Lina Lamont (Melissa Cotton Hunter) are the toast of the town for their romantic silent films. However, when Warner Brothers releases its first talking picture, “The Jazz Singer,” Monumental’s studio head, RF Simpson (Eric Parker) and chief director Roscoe Dexter (John Jay Espino) must put their heads together to compete with the new “talkies” sensation.
Production pianist and Lockwood’s longtime partner Cosmo Brown (Sam Balzac) helps to convert the studio’s recent project – a French Revolution romance named the “Dueling Cavalier” – to not only a “talkie” but a musical as the “Dancing Cavalier.” Because of his years in Vaudeville, Lockwood has no trouble speaking lines, singing, and dancing, but Lamont lacks the necessary erudition. Despite vocal coaching, which features some of the shows funniest scenes capped by one of its most ebullient numbers “Moses Supposes,” she can’t speak her lines or sing her songs without being laughed at for her nasally voice and poor pronunciation.
Enter Kathy Seldon (Hannah Eakin) who agrees to be Lamont’s voice to save the picture before her own career is launched with a big publicity campaign. Seldon and Lockwood fall in love, but their romance is threatened when Lina Lamont finds a way to legally bind Kathy to continue to be her voice behind the curtain. Will this also end her relationship with Don Lockwood? The answers are delivered in this entertaining musical, which clocks in faithfully at about the same length as the film: 103 minutes.
Though most people know the classic title song, the musical is so successful because it is also filled with some of the best music and dance numbers in the history of musical cinema, including “Moses Supposes,” “Make ‘em Laugh,” “Broadway Melody,” and “Good Morning” as well as some of the most romantic songs in cinema history, such as “You Are My Lucky Star,” “Would You,” and “You Stepped Out of a Dream.”
Being faithful to an original as beloved as this MGM film is an important feature of any production of “Singin’ in the Rain.” Director Hans Friedrichs has proven himself over the years at the Barn to be steeped in theater history and knowledge, and he does not disappoint here. Though edited down, the staging of the show follows the film very closely but with wise adaptations for the stage. Choreography by Melissa Cotton Hunter also sticks closely to the original work by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen with notable exceptions, such as a trimmed routine in “Moses Supposes” and an omission of puddle stomping and splashing that would have soaked the audience in the first four rows during “Singin’.”
With the aid of brilliant technical minds, the Barn makes it rain on stage during the signature number and an encore. Gorgeous special effects and sets throughout add to the atmosphere with excellent costumes, wigs, props, and lighting designs.
But it’s the core of the cast that really showers the success of this show into every minute of its production. Jamey Grisham has played many roles in his years at the Barn, but this may be his best yet. He channels Gene Kelly in a truly remarkable way. His singing, dancing, and acting hit all the right notes and yet not without some individual flair of his own.
Melissa Cotton Hunter hams it up hilariously as the ditzy Lina Lamont, delivering the show’s funniest lines with perfect timing. She also delights in the only non-film song, the mirror-gazing “What’s Wrong With Me?”
Hannah Eakin has the classic movie star looks that makes her in some ways better for this role than Debbie Reynolds. Her high cheek bones are aided by a smart hairstyle and make up, but Eakin once again also demonstrates her skill-set with precision singing, dancing, and acting.
General audience consensus lauds Sam Balzac most of all as a show stealer in the role of Cosmo Brown. In his first big role on the Barn stage, Balzac does O’Connor proud, especially in his madcap “Make ‘em Laugh,” which includes a flip to close along with many other bits from the famous scene.
The supporting cast also helps make this the Barn’s best show of the season with funny turns by Espino as Dexter and Parker as Simpson but also all the extras who fill the stage with colorful costumes, tight dancing, and beautiful song.
In its penultimate show of its 70th year of summer stock, the Barn’s “Singin’ in the Rain” shows off why the theater is a historical landmark, an institution, and a local treasure. A full house exited Tuesday night whistling the tunes and waiting for the next rain storm to be “singing and dancing in the rain.” And the night of entertainment and fun continues after the curtain calls with the cabaret show in the Rehearsal Shed Lounge. Share in this unique theater experience before the summer rains out.
Reflect and connect.
Have someone give you a kiss, and tell you that I love you.
I miss you so very much, Mom.
Talk to you tomorrow, Mom.
- Days ago = 411 days ago
- Bloggery committed by chris tower - 1608.19 - 10:10
NOTE on time: When I post late, I had been posting at 7:10 a.m. because Google is on Pacific Time, and so this is really 10:10 EDT. However, it still shows up on the blog in Pacific time. So, I am going to start posting at 10:10 a.m. Pacific time, intending this to be 10:10 Eastern time. I know this only matters to me, and to you, Mom. But I am not going back and changing all the 7:10 a.m. times. But I will run this note for a while. Mom, you know that I am posting at 10:10 a.m. often because this is the time of your death.