Saturday, October 6, 2012

Review: (Calgary) Singin' in the Rain

What a Glorious Feelin' I'm Happy Again
by Joe Vermeulen
Based on the 1952 movie musical with the same name, Singin’ In The Rain gives a fictional inside look into a 1920’s Hollywood studio just as talking pictures came to be. Featuring politics, intrigue, comedy and of course romance, this charming show is certainly a classic, with such well known songs as “Good Morning”, “Make ‘em Laugh”, “Lucky Star” and of course, “Singin’ in the Rain”
Opening at the première screening of their new movie, Don Lockwood (Jarryd Baine) and his co-star Lina Lamont (Bethany McNab) and Lockwood’s friend and pianist Cosmo Brown (Graeme Humphrey) are treated to a successful opening. However at the opening gala producer RF Simpson (Chris Gibson) shows the first screen test of the new technology behind talking pictures. In order to save the studio they have to re-do their planned silent film into a talking film. When that fails due to Lina’s horrific and obnoxious voice, Cosmo gets the idea to over-dub her voice with Lockwood’s new love interest Kathy Selden’s (Tannis Laatsch) voice, much to Lina’s annoyance. As Lina attempts to steal the spotlight from Kathy, it is revealed who the true voice of the star is, and all is right. 
Before I discuss the performances, I feel that I really must start with the sound design and operation. One of the hardest things for any production, but especially community theatre, to accomplish is a perfect sound design. That being said however, the sound for Singin' in the Rain completely failed the show. Characters' voices were muffled to the point where they could not be understood, and the volume levels and EQ were weak. Voices did not punch over the orchestra clearly in many cases and the orchestra itself did not have any life to it, to the point where the only instrument you could clearly distinguish from any other was the drums. That being said for a community theatre it’s wonderful to see that they had a live orchestra and while the sound was not as clear as it should have been, it is better to have the orchestra than to use click tracks, so Front Row Centre should be commended for that choice. 
The ensemble was very effective and vocally powerful.

Jarryd Baine’s Don Lockwood can sing and dance to the nines. However his portrayal of the hero and love interest fell flat, and was more of a caricature than a real person. Often stepping over applause (which combined with the poor sound ensured that the lines spoken could not be heard) his dialogue was very stilted and almost melodramatic. Lockwood’s love for Kathy and Cosmo and frustration at Lina did not come across clearly in his dialogue with either of them. However as soon as he started to sing (with seemlingly the worst microphone in the company) and especially dance, you began to see a bit deeper into what makes Lockwood tick as a person, and his friendship and love for the other two.
Graeme Humphrey as Cosmo Brown carried the comedy of the show, and aside from his singing and tap dance abilities which were superb, his portrayal of Cosmo brought something deeper than just comic relief, a true love for his friend. Likewise Tanis Laatsch’s Kathy Selden was dynamite at singing and dancing, and Kathy’s love for Lockwood was completely clear.
The ensemble was very effective and vocally powerful. I did not see any sign of them having difficulty with Karen Iwanski’s complex tap choreography. 
One of the best things about community theatre is the very fact that it is a bunch of people who very clearly love what they are doing and want to get better at it. It is no surprise to see many names of the cast and the musicians listed also in the design and construction credits for the show. Community theatre not only encourages participation and a love of the theatre, but provides training and coaching for aspiring cast members and technicians, young and old and this diversity is reflected onstage and off. The true magic of this sort of theatre is, to my mind, that the people on the stage not only want to be there, they made the whole thing happen. The community that surrounds the Front Row Centre company is enthusiastic and behind them 100 percent. As I was sitting in the audience I could hear conversation from all around me about how the entire audience was connected to the company and the show. Some had been involved in previous productions. Others had been coming for years as regular audience members. 
Seeing a show like this, put on by ordinary people doing extraordinary things reminds me of why I wanted to be involved in the theatre, and makes me yearn to get involved again. Front Row Centre is looking for volunteers... I just might.

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