Audiences get something to sing about

Published: July 13, 2006
Storm clouds, sunshine, the light of day, the dark of night: Regardless of the weather, the audience is smiling inside North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly thanks to its buoyant production of "Singin' in the Rain." Based on the 1952 movie musical of the same name, this show stars Matt Loehr as Don Lockwood, Kelly D. Felthous as Kathy Selden and Mark Ledbetter as Cosmo Brown. The same roles were played in the movie by Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O'Connor, respectively.

Set in the late '20s, the story follows silent movie star Don Lockwood as he tries to make the transition to "talkies," while dealing with his frequent co-star Lina Lamont (Beth Beyer), whose voice sounds as enticing as nails on a chalkboard.

In the midst of the career makeover, Don also tries to woo talented ingenue Kathy. Luckily, his best friend and sidekick, Cosmo, is always on hand to offer support, guidance and the occasional one-line zinger to smooth the path to success.

With great casting, Loehr's charm flows smoothly. Felthous can be as bubbly as Reynolds, while Ledbetter can coax as much gurgling laughter from an audience as O'Connor. These actors conjure the spirits of their predecessors from the film, yet still put their own stamps on their roles - no easy feat.

North Shore Music Theatre favorite David Coffee sheds his familiar Scrooge image to take a turn in this show as film director Roscoe Dexter, and local theater impresario Gordon Baird of Gloucester also makes an appearance. Ensemble members include Bethani Boccia of Beverly, Russell Perry of North Andover, Bernard Baldassaro, Brooke Nathanson and Justin Sacramone, all of Peabody; and Austin Parker of Salem, Mass.

Watching this "Singin' in the Rain" doesn't seem so much like a rehashing of the movie. Rather, it's a fresh retelling with a modern sensibility.

But "Singin' in the Rain" lovers shouldn't worry. This is still the classic musical they remember, featuring songs that belong in the pantheon of great American musicals, from the title song "Singin' in the Rain" to "Good Morning" and "Make 'Em Laugh."

It's hard to mess with some classics, especially ones so ingrained in celluloid history. "Singin' in the Rain" ranked No. 10 in the American Film Institute's list of the 100 Best Films of all time, and regularly tops critics' lists as best musical.

While the acting and the music tell the story and move the show along, one of the main stars of this show is outstanding dancing. Stafford put together some great, energetic sequences that put these actors through their paces.

By the by, Loehr does get the chance to sing under some showers, and splash around in on-stage puddles. The result was some moist folks in the front rows, but they didn't seem to mind.

If you're opposed to a little water, however, you might want to bring a raincoat and galoshes, just in case.