WASHINGTON TERRACE — Terrace Plaza Playhouse is opening their summer season with the classic musical Singin’ in the Rain, directed by Ryan Buckman. The stage version of Singin’ in the Rain debuted in 1983, and was based on the famous 1952 movie of the same name. With a book by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, lyrics by Arthur Freed and music by Nacio Herb Brown. The story follows silent screen stars Don Lockwood (played by Jayson Benedict) and Lina Lamont (played by Emily Dickerson), as they navigate the new world of talking pictures. Accompanied by several side characters, the story also follows finding love and success, with well known songs and exciting dancing.
The greatest standout from this production is the costumes by Kathy Richmond. Singin’ in the Rain is set in the 1920s, which means Richmond had a great decade of time in which to make her costuming choices. Her designs were most display in the song “Beautiful Girl,” where the period appropriate dresses were unique yet perfectly coordinated and visually stunning. Additionally, I loved all of the different hats that were used through the show. Jacci Florence is credited as the hat specialist for the production, and has made some excellent selections.
Next, the Terrace Plaza Playhouse production of Singin’ in the Rain has some fantastic choreography, created by Shelby Moon Wood, with assistance from Quinten Moon Wood. What stood out in the show was, of course, the tap dancing. Benedict as Lockwood is joined by Trey Montgomery Cornell as Cosmo for some truly show stopping numbers. The most impressive of these was “Moses Supposes,” which had both the dance elements as well as the strong musicality. They also impressed in executing the dancing for the number “Good Morning,” adding Madison Benedict as Kathy Selden. This song is so famous that getting it right is a challenge, and yet the choreography in this number was enthralling, and the players hit every step just right. The title song, “Singin’ in the Rain,” also had some great choreography, and the added element of rain, which is always a great technical feet. Rain engineer Brian Taft made the rain appear realistic, and that was a fun element that I enjoyed. There was a rousing finale as part of the curtain call that truly showed the ability of this cast to sing and dance. My only wish was that it would have been nice to have seen more of the ensemble’s talents during the show itself.
As for the players, while they all were enjoyable, Cornell as Cosmo stole the show. I have seen some productions where the song “Make ‘Em Laugh” struggled to do just that, but Cornell embraced the assignment and helped the song meet its potential. From his amusing facial expressions to his great command of physical comedy, this song was pure joy. Cornell also utilized his impressive facial expressions throughout the show to add to the humor and move the story forward. Cornell did not shy away from falling down for a laugh, and could quickly pick himself up again with a speed that was almost unbelievable.
As Kathy Selden, Benedict was a charming female lead, and she had a golden voice. Her rendition of “Lucky Star” was simply lovely. She also had a good balance of simple strength and romantic interest which helped make the story more realistic. Benedict as Lockwood was a bit unassuming, and Dickerson as Lamont was quite amusing. Lina is famous for her cloying voice, and Dickerson really played up this aspect of her character. I was glad when Benedict started to sing and dance. Benedict’s talent allowed character shone through. With each song, I better understand why Buckman had cast him him in this well-known role.
The set, designed by Ryan Bruckman and Nathan Fawcett was simple but very eye catching. Because Terrace Plaza Playhouse is a small space, it was helpful to have a small set constructed upstage, allowing for more space for the dancing and the action.
Because the movie Singin’ in the Rain is so iconic, it is hard to build a show that is unique yet meet the expectations of the fans in attendance. The production at Terrace Plaza Playhose has done a decent job at achieving this delicate balance, and is a nice night out for the beginning summer theatre season.