Following its hit rendition of “Mamma Mia!,” Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre strikes gold again with its lively production of “Singin’ in the Rain,” the stage version based on the classic 1952 MGM film musical of the same title starring Gene Kelley, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds. I attended Saturday’s media performance, smartly directed by Eddie Curry and stylishly choreographed by Ron Morgan that runs through May 26.
Like the film, this musical is a romantic comedy which depicts the Hollywood film industry in the 1920s when actors, some more successfully than others, were forced to make the transition from silent movie to “talkies.” The story centers on famed silent film actor Don Lockwood (Timothy Ford), whose success is tied to that of his co-star Lina Lamont (Sarah Hund). Their mutual fans believe Lamont is his girlfriend, but for leading man Lockwood, their relationship is merely a publicity ruse. While the duo films their first talkie together, studio executives are aghast that Lamont’s voice sounds like fingernails scratching a chalkboard. Enter a talented young actress, Kathy Selden (Kimberly Doreen Burns), who is recruited to dub over Lamont’s voice with her own, but sparks fly when the diva-esque star finds out. By then, Lockwood and Selden have fallen in love, which just further alienates Lamont, who is determined to sabotage the promising career of her ingénue rival. Thrown into the mix of this frothy romp is Cosmo Brown (Buddy Reeder) who is Lockwood’s happy-go-lucky pal and sidekick.
Let me say from the start, the trio of Ford, Burns and Reeder turned in exhilarating performances that are not carbon copies of Kelly’s, O’Connor’s & Reynolds’s, but came extremely close to capturing the essence, if not the chemistry, affability and energy of the characters played by their silver screen counterparts. Plus, there is no question this Beef & Boards trio gave the originals a run for their money in terms of the caliber of their comic acting, singing and dancing as evidenced in “Good Morning,” Ford’s solo in “Singin’ in the Rain” (yes, of course it pours down), Burns singing in a richly textured voice in “You Are My Lucky Star,” and “Would You?” and Reeder channeling O’Connor’s physical comedy in “Make ‘Em Laugh.”
Hund’s characterization of the “dumb blonde” Lina Lamont, superbly showcased in her solo lament, “What’s Wrong with Me?” was absolutely side-splitting. Bringing down the house was her insanely funny performance as Lamont during a video segment which replicated her first talkie “The Duelling Cavalier,” which revealed her murderously high-pitched voice. Hund’s zany turn as ditzy Lamont was a perfect example of how talented one has to be one play someone who is untalented, yet still be entertaining, and even loveable.
The show features a chorus that absolutely sparkled in the original choreography by Gene Kelley and Stanley Donen, the film’s directors. Dressed in brilliant red costumes, the ensemble, tap-dancing wizards, were dazzling in the fantasy sequence, “Broadway Melody.”
The creative team of set designer Michael Layton, lighting designer Ryan Koharchick, sound designer Daniel Hesselbrock and costume designer Jill Kelly Howe once again combined their skills and talents to create another first-rate Beef & Board technical experience. Sadly, the performance was marred by a failed video sequence that, for whatever reason, did not appear on the screen early in the show as planned. But what followed was of such high quality that the flub hardly made a dent in the total proceedings and was easily forgiven. Still, I felt for the artists who obviously worked very hard to create a seamless experience.
The reboot of old television sitcoms and the constant revival of classic musicals on the entertainment scene indicates that, no doubt due, in part, to the current toxic social and political climate, there is a strong desire for nostalgia and a return to simpler times. If that is something you are looking for, there is no better way to escape reality than to luxuriate yourself in this latest Beef & Boards offering that is as plentiful in joy and spirit as its generous buffet is in delectable comfort food.
WHERE: Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre. 9301 Michigan Rd., Indianapolis, 46268
TICKETS: Available by calling the box office at (317) 872- 9664 between 10:00 a.m. & 7:00 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, and 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Mondays. Tickets range from $44 to $69 and include Chef Odell Ward’s dinner buffet, fruit & salad bar, and select beverages.
WEB SITE: For more information or show schedule, visit beefandboards.com.