News Column

Director says Pittsburgh CLO's 'Singin' in the Rain' is pure escapism

May 29, 2014

By Alice T. Carter, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

May 29--If you want to chase away the gloom, try "Singin' in the Rain."

"The music is infectiously joyous," says Linda Goodrich, the choreographer and director of the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera production from May 29 to June 8 at the Benedum Center, Downtown.

"There's escapism. But there's something so pure about it. You come away wanting to live life with more joy," she says.

Goodrich has lost track of the number of times she has choreographed and directed the stage adaptation of the 1952 MGM musical that starred Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O'Connor, but she guesstimates that she has done from 15 to 20 productions of the show, including the 1995 and 2002 Civic Light Opera productions.

She first fell in love with "Singin' in the Rain" when she was a child.

"It was the first movie musical that spoke to me," she says. "I was transported by Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse (the seductress in the green dress who danced with Kelly in the movie's 'Gotta Dance' number)."

As those who have seen the movie know, the story is set in 1927 Hollywood as "The Jazz Singer," the first movie with sound, is revolutionizing movie-making.

Now that they can be heard, actors and actresses are enrolling in voice and diction lessons. Movie crews are scrambling to figure out how to hide microphones in bushes. And the Hollywood hierarchy is being reshuffled as new names, faces, voices and talents depose long-established stars.

Silent-movie stars Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont appear to be engaged in love scenes both on and off screen, though Lockwood will privately tell you that's not so.

When Lina's annoying voice threatens to end her career, the studio recruits talented young newcomer Kathy Selden to do the talking and singing for Lina's onscreen performances. When Lina finds out and begins to suspect that Kathy also may be replacing her in offstage loves scenes with Don, tempers flare.

"It's really just about the love of performing and about the industry at such a huge moment in movie history," Goodrich says. "It's from the golden era of movie musicals."

The musical brings to the stage a wealth of opportunities for song and dance that include the iconic "Singin' in the Rain" number that ends the first act, as well as "Make 'em Laugh," "Moses Supposes" and "Good Morning."

"It's one of the great tap shows," Goodrich says. The score also contains classic romantic songs such as "All I Do Is Dream of You," "You Stepped Out of a Dream" and "You Were Meant for Me."

With a mere six days to take the CLO production from first cast meeting to opening night, Goodrich has filled some of the principal roles with seasoned professionals who have done this show before, such as David Elder, who will play Don Lockwood.

Though most familiar to CLO audiences for his appearance as Bobby Pepper in the 2010 production of "Curtain," the Broadway actor has played Lockwood in two of Goodrich's earlier "Singin' in the Rain" productions. Also making a return appearance is Cary Tedder, who appeared in three CLO shows in 2008 and will play Lockwood's buddy, Cosmo Brown.

CLO newcomer Mary Michael Patterson is taking a break from her role as Christine Daae in Broadway's "The Phantom of the Opera" to play Kathy Selden, and Kristine Bendul is on leave from the Broadway production of "Cinderella" to play the vamp Olga Mara.

Elder, Tedder, Patterson and Goodrich have previously worked together on a production of "Singin' in the Rain" for Music Theatre of Wichita, but Bendul is doing the musical for the first time.

That blend of veterans and newcomers adds a dimension to rehearsals and performances, Goodrich believes. "What's always fun is the synergy of a new cast," Goodrich says.

Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808, or via Twitter @ATCarter_Trib.


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Source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (PA)

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