'Singin in the Rain' by Cheshire High School Drama
Nancy Sasso Janis
OnStage Connecticut Critic / Connecticut Critics Circle
Cheshire, CT - Cheshire High School Drama decided to launch a production of ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ despite the fact that it requires lots of strong tap dancing and the little detail of making it rain onstage. Director Dawn DeMeo, her assistant Taryn Chorney, and the Cheshire HS students were up to every technical challenge and Choreographer John E. Carter made sure that every one of the talented tappers performed perfectly. Add in the fabulous costumes that invoked the silent screen era beautifully and the result is a happy romantic comedy that delighted the packed audience in the school’s Thorpe auditorium.
‘Singin’ in the Rain’ was adapted from the iconic 1952 movie of the same name; the plot adheres closely to the original that is set in the final days of the silent screen era. It focuses on the actor Don Lockwood, his sidekick Cosmo Brown, aspiring actress Kathy Selden and Lockwood’s leading lady Lina Lamont, whose voice will preclude her from making it in talking pictures. The musical ran on Broadway at the Gershwin for 367 performances and was directed and choreographed by Twyla Tharp. Familiar songs include “Good Morning,” “Make ‘em Laugh,” “You Stepped Out of Dream,” and “All I Do is Dream of You.”
The friendship of Don (the Gene Kelly role) and Cosmo was fun to watch. Thomas Mueller was a true song and dance man in the role of leading man Don Lockwood and Joseph Berardi was perfectly cast in the comedic role of Cosmo. He got to show off his great comedic timing in “Make ‘em Laugh” and the duo danced together well in all their numbers.
Elizabeth Feest took on the leading role of Kathy played by Debbie Reynolds in the film version and did very well. Katie Sparks was the vocally-challenged Lina; she wore the most beautiful costumes and jumped in with both feet on “What’s Wrong With Me?”
Giovanni Troiano was studio owner R.F. Simpson and Sam Wyckoff stomped about in tall boots as the director Roscoe Dexter. Allison McAlinden sparkled as reporter Dora Bailey and Chris Baker was the male diction coach. Julia Marcouiller played Miss Dinsmore and Sarah Joseph had a great accent as Zelda Zanders. Michael Stearns was the featured soloist in “Beautiful Girls.”
Matthew Zarra played Sid Phillips, Julia Waldron was Roz and Steven Rapillo had a few lines as a policeman. Sam Vetto and Matt Long played Young Dom and Cosmo respectively. Ben Fleury was a villain in a silent movie, Seneca Ellis played an onstage sound engineer, Grace Azaula was Mary Margaret, Kassady Couillard was Olga Mara and David Caldarella was a man on the screen. Assistant directors who repeated each other were played by Claire Lasher, Mirin Scassellati and Angelica Ioime. Nicole Leigh was the wardrobe mistress, Jasper Barnhart the hairdresser, Samantha Pettola a lady-in-waiting in the film, and Maya Kostolitz was Mrs. Simpson. Bailey Crowe played Sam the Butler.
The art deco set was designed by John Williams and the technical theater classes at the high school and seamlessly changed, with the help of a large team of crew members, into the rainy street scene. There was a projection area for the black and white silent films that eventually turned to talkies. Mike Solimine served as Film Coordinator and Craig Gehr oversaw the fine lighting.
The large cast included six dance captains, 30 young women in the female ensemble and 13 young men in the male ensemble; an impressive 33 of them were denoted as featured dancers. The tap dancing was in superb unison and the choreography was up to the challenging level of the inimitable Mr. Carter. I enjoyed every minute of the production numbers, but “Broadway Melody” was a standout for me. The adult orchestra played the songs by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed and added much to the overall feel of this fine production.
Kudos to the talented Cheshire High School students and the adults who work with them on a great show.
Nancy Sasso Janis is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and continues to contribute theatre news to local Patch sites. Follow her on Twitter at @nancysjanis417 and at her Facebook page Connecticut Theatre Previews.