SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, Drury Lane Oakbrook. Two dimensions could barely contain the energy of MGM's nearly flawless 1952 musical. The one thing it lacked was depth--which this popular 1985 screen-to-stage spin-off provides in the form of a third dimension.
Betty Comden and Adolph Green's witty screenplay, about Hollywood's golden age, and the vintage Jazz Age standards by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed offer a trove of surefire gags and lush ballads, including "You Are My Lucky Star," "(I Would) Would You," and "All I Do Is Dream of You." Youthful exuberance fuels the happy plot, about a singer, dancer, and actor who join forces to survive the industry's bumpy transition from silent films to talkies. Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen's choreography effortlessly captures the protagonists' carefree creativity: the nifty tap-dancing sequences in "Broadway Rhythm" and "Good Morning" embody the ingenuity and can-do energy of the technical innovation behind sound cinema.
Ray Frewen's charming revival captures the film's sassy style and irreverent gusto, as does Marc Robin's re-creation of the choreography. Considering that live performers get only one "take," this trio--who must all sing, dance, and act--is terrific. Michael Ehlers is suave as the publicity-shy star who likes to hoof in the rain, Tammy Mader engaging as the deserving ingenue, and plucky James Zager full of fun as cutup Cosmo Brown. As Lina Lamont, the silent-screen phony with the voice of a scorched cat, Charma Ward Bonanno works overtime to deserve her delicious comeuppance. Though Drury Lane's borrowed sets don't have the same meticulous detail as the film, ultimately sheer spirit and skill carry the evening. --Lawrence Bommer