Singin’ in the Rain On Stage at Roger Rocka’s

Jan 26, 2023 | 2023 Articles, Terrance V. Mc Arthur, Theatre

by Terrance Mc Arthur

Remember all that wonderful rain we’ve had? You can get a little more of it (metaphorically) at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater in the Good Company Players’ production of Singin’ in the Rain, running through March 12.

Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, and Jean Hagen starred in the 1952 film, scripted by Betty Comden and Adolph Green (featuring period songs of the Arthur Freed/Herb Nacio Brown partnership and others) about Don Lockwood (a handsome silent-movie star), Kathy Seldon (a wannabe actress), Cosmo Brown (the star’s best friend), and Lina Lamont (the screechy-voiced co-star who believes everything the movie fan magazines write about her non-existent off-screen romance with Don). All these characters are thrown into that tumultuous time when Hollywood changed from silent films to talkies. The stage musical played in London, and then on Broadway, in the 1980s.

Shawn Williams in GCP’s production of “Singin’ in the Rain”

To start with, you can’t get Gene Kelly to play Don Lockwood (unless you go to a really good séance), but GCP is lucky, because they have Shawn Williams, who has been Buddy the Elf, William Shakespeare, and Daddy Long-Legs on the Roger Rocka’s stage. He’s tall, he’s a graceful and energetic dancer with great stamina (you need it in this show), he’s a strong singer, and he has a wicked grin. The title song’s dance in the rain is lovingly recreated with lighting, sound, and projections that make the water illusion seem real, and Williams dances up a storm. During the silent filmed sequences projected in the show, he fences, romances, and emotes with enthusiasm.

Kaitlin Dean sings with power and beauty as Kathy Seldon, and dances with spunky precision on the marvelous “Good Morning” number, which was a true showstopper on opening night (When it finished, the three performers received applause that wouldn’t stop until Williams had said his next line three times.).

From left to right Cosmo (Peter Hartley), Kathy Seldon (Kaitlin Dean), and Don Lockwood (Shawn Williams) in GCP’s production of “Singin’ in the Rain”

The third leg of the “Good Morning” trio is Peter Hartley as Cosmo. As young as he is, his dancing kept up with the others. He gets a lot of the good laugh lines, delivered with a wry touch that would please Donald O’Connor. His physical comedy chops are displayed in “Make ‘Em Laugh,” and his work with Williams on “Moses Supposes” shows he can hang in there with the best.

Lina is a difficult part to play, since the grating voice wreaks havoc on the throat. Madeline Wristen came, saw, and conquered the role with an off-putting character that still makes you love the manipulating witch-with-a-B. The “What’s Wrong With Me?” song is a comic highlight.

R. F. Simpson, the boss of Monumental Studio, proves to be a perfect fit for the talents of Roger Christensen, with a slightly befuddled pomposity that hides business savvy. Adrian Amsso, as a film director, barks orders and to his underlings and oozes agreement with his stars and his boss.

Dan Pessano and Emily Pessano co-directed, creating a smooth and enjoyable evening where all the right dramatic notes are hit. Speaking of right notes, Judith Dickison was the vocal coach, and every time I see her name in the program, I think to myself “This is going to sound good.” Ginger Kay Lewis Reed delivers the costuming goods with flapper dresses, elegant gowns for Lina, period 1700’s frou-frou for the silent films, and a chorus member in a red-and-black tribute to Alla Nazimova, Gloria Swanson, and Erté that passes by in a moment, but you remember it. Migaki’s choreography recaptures magical moments of the original, yet it stands on its own. David Pierce’s set features lampposts that stand up to the wear of Williams pulling and hanging on them (Pierce and his scene shop crew get their moments of glory as the villains in the silent films.)

If you know Singin’ in the Rain, the film, the show will bring back fond memories. If you don’t know the film, the show will amaze and astound you with dance, song, and humor. That’s entertainment!

The show plays at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater, 1226 N. Wishon, in Fresno. Tickets can be purchased on their website or by calling the box office at (559) 266-9494.

If you love local theatre, be sure to check out Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. You can find the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, and also on podbean.

Check out more theatre reviews & other local entertainment articles in our Arts & Entertainment section. You can also find more theatre coming up on KRL’s Local Theatre event page.

Terrance V. Mc Arthur worked for the Fresno County Public Library for three decades. He is retired, but not retiring. A storyteller, puppeteer, writer, actor, magician, basketmaker, and all-around interesting person, his goal is to make life more unusual for everyone he meets.


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