WHAT "Singin' in the Rain"
WHERE John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport
INFO $73 or $78 (Saturday evenings); 631-261-2900, engemantheater.com
BOTTOM LINE A welcome downpour in this classic musical.
After slogging around in the rain for most of last week, the last thing anyone needed was another downpour — unless you count the deluge of pure delight that was the Act 1 finale of "Singin' in the Rain" at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport.
Taking on the iconic role so associated with Gene Kelly in the 1952 film (talk about pressure!), Danny Gardner put his own thoughtful spin on Don Lockwood, the silent film star caught up in the transition to "talkies." He splashed his way through that title number in flawless song-and-dance-man style, seeming to have as much fun kicking the increasingly substantial puddles as any kid on a rainy day.
The musical adaptation, first on Broadway in 1985, doesn't stray much from the film, considered among the best movie musicals of all time. It's one of those shows that constantly surprises with songs you may have forgotten were in it — gems like "Make 'Em Laugh," made famous onscreen by Donald O'Connor as Cosmo, Don' s loyal sidekick. Then there are the love songs, "You Are My Lucky Star" and "You Were Meant for Me"; the peppy "Good Mornin' " (sadly without that well-known overturned sofa), and the razzle-dazzle production number "Broadway Melody."
The Engeman has upped its game when it comes to casting of late, and this show has star turns everywhere you look. Among the standouts: Brian Shepard as Cosmo, who truly does make you laugh in that number; Tessa Grady, walking a fine line as love interest Kathy Selden, bringing a little modern sensibility into a role that could easily be a cliché, and Emily Stockdale as Lina Lamont, the inept silent-film star who bravely manages to sustain throughout a voice so grating you could only wish for nails on a chalkboard.
They all look fabulous, thanks to Kurt Alger's stunning period costumes, all sequins and feathers that lit up David Arsenault's soundstage set. A word, too, for director-choreographer Drew Humphrey, who not only worked his wonders with the onstage happenings, but managed to pull off a series of silent films, with the requisite shaky, grainy footage, that helped move the story along.
But back to that rain. Kudos to whoever decided to leave the curtain open after the first act, allowing audience members who stayed in their seats to witness the herculean efforts involved in getting rid of all that water (wonder how many Wet Vacs they'll go through?). First time I've seen a standing ovation during intermission.