Newsday Review

‘Singin’ in the Rain’ review: A sunny Hollywood spoof

May 22, 2018
By Barbara Schuler

After slogging around in the rain for most of last week, the last thing anyone needed was another downpour — unless you count the deluge of pure delight that was the Act 1 finale of  “Singin’ in the Rain” at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport.

Taking on the iconic role so associated with Gene Kelly in the 1952 film (talk about pressure!), Danny Gardner put his own thoughtful spin on Don Lockwood, the silent film star caught up in the transition to “talkies.” He splashed his way through that title number in flawless song-and-dance-man style, seeming to have as much fun kicking the increasingly substantial puddles as any kid on a rainy day.

The musical adaptation, first on Broadway in 1985, doesn’t stray much from the film, considered among the best movie musicals of all time. It’s one of those shows that constantly surprises with songs you may have forgotten were in it — gems like “Make ‘Em Laugh,” made famous onscreen by Donald O’Connor as Cosmo, Don’ s loyal sidekick. Then there are the love songs, “You Are My Lucky Star”  and “You Were Meant for Me”; the peppy “Good Mornin’ ” (sadly without that well-known overturned sofa), and the razzle-dazzle production number “Broadway Melody.”

The Engeman has upped its game when it comes to casting of late, and this show has star turns everywhere you look. Among the standouts: Brian Shepard as Cosmo, who truly does make you laugh in that number; Tessa Grady, walking a fine line as love interest Kathy Selden, bringing a little modern sensibility into a role that could easily be a cliché, and Emily Stockdale as Lina Lamont, the inept silent-film star who bravely manages to sustain throughout a voice so grating you could only wish for nails on a chalkboard.

They all look fabulous, thanks to Kurt Alger’s stunning period costumes, all sequins and feathers that lit up David Arsenault’s soundstage set.  A word, too, for director-choreographer Drew Humphrey, who not only worked his wonders with the onstage happenings, but managed to pull off a series of silent films, with the requisite shaky, grainy footage, that helped move the story along.

But back to that rain. Kudos to whoever decided to leave the curtain open after the first act, allowing audience members who stayed in their seats to witness the herculean efforts involved in getting rid of all that water (wonder how many Wet Vacs they’ll go through?). First time I’ve seen a standing ovation during intermission.

Broadway World Review

The Classic SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN at The Engeman

May 23, 2018
By Melissa Giordano

Singin’ In The Rain, the classic Tony nominated musical based on the wildly famous MGM film, is certainly a must see among theatre attendees. With a Screenplay by Betty Comden & Adolph Greene and Music by Naico Herb Brown & Arthur Freedes, the incarnation at Northport’s John W. Engeman Theatre will surely have you leaving the theatre with a smile. Running through July 1st, closing out the Engeman’s dazzling 11th season, the delightful incarnation is strongly directed by Engeman vet Drew Humphrey.

The story, set in the 1920’s, follows silent film star Don Lockwood, charmingly portrayed by Danny Gardner, who barely tolerates his annoying and meddlesome “leading lady”, Lina Lamont, hilariously portrayed by Emily Stockdale. Laughter abounds throughout the show and we also see a budding relationship between Don and up-and-coming actress Kathy Selden, portrayed beautifully by Tessa Grady.

Mr. Gardner honors the Gene Kelly role well while truly making it his own. A great voice and classic look make him a natural for the part. Additionally, his fantastic rendition of the iconic “Singin’ In The Rain”, complete with sheets of rain coming down from the rafters, practically receives a standing ovation from the enthusiastic, sold out audience. As for Ms. Stockdale, her performance brings roars of laughter. While gorgeous for the big screen, Lina Lamont’s speaking – and signing – voice is less than desirable making her, shall we say, perfect for silent films.

And Ms. Grady is a fine Kathy. A quiet confidence and sass serves the role well. Indeed an audience favorite is her exquisite rendition of “You Are My Lucky Star” in addition to the well-known “Good Morning” with Mr. Gardner and and Brian Shepard who portrays Cosmo, Don’s best friend. Mr. Shepard is excellent as Cosmo who also serves as the fictional movie studio’s head musician. He and Mr. Gardner did some incredible tap numbers including “Moses” in Act One and “Broadway Melody” in Act Two.

In addition to the outstanding cast, the musical direction is superbly done by Jonathan Brenner leading a fantastic live orchestra with Kurt Alger‘s gorgeous costumes enhancing the visually stunning production. Yellow colored rain coats and umbrellas adorned the cast for the big final number and it is apparent that everyone in the company is enjoying Mr. Humphrey’s energetic choreography. As you can see, everyone on the cast and creative team is truly top-notch.

Indeed, you will be happily singin’ in any type of weather once you’ve seen this production. A wonderful cast, gripping story, and Long Island’s fabulous John W. Engeman Theatre prove a classic never goes out of style.

The Theatre Guide Review

Singin’ in the Rain – John W. Engeman Theater

May 22, 2018
By Kristen Weyer

The John W. Engeman Theater is closing its 11th season with that musical classic Singin’ in the Rain! This fabulous production is brilliantly directed and choreographed by Drew Humphrey and features everything you could hope for and more from this beloved show.  The iconic 1952 movie starring Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds has been perfectly transferred to the stage; every one of your favorite lines, songs and dance sequences are present, and, oh yes, it is going to “rain” onstage!

It’s 1927 in the heyday of silent films, and Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont are Hollywood’s favorite film couple. Then the talking movies arrive and turn Hollywood upside down.  With their newest film about to release they must desperately convert it into a “talkie” or risk the ruination of the entire movie studio.  We’re taken on a delightful romp through the golden age of Hollywood with romance, humor, dancing, and of course, Singin’ in the Rain.

This cast is amazing.  From leads to ensemble each and every one of them was extremely impressive.  Danny Gardner is excellent as Don Lockwood, combining his charismatic and debonair manner with smooth and perfect vocals. His superb talent is obvious, especially as he sings, dances and splashes his way through that most awaited scene “Singin’in the Rain”. Tessa Grady is a lovely and captivating Kathy Selden.  Her beautiful voice and impressive dance skills are blended to perfection. Brian Shepard does the memory of Donald O’Connor proud with his portrayal of Cosmo Brown.  His charming smile and quirky grin, his excellent voice and energetic performances bring his silly, comical character to life.  As impressive as they are separately, these three together are even more so.  Their dance sequence during “Good Mornin“ is exceptional.

Emily Stockdale is brilliant as the tonally challenged Lina Lamont.  Her personae and timing were spot on.  Leer Leary is wonderful as the studio head R.F. Simpson; he portrays the perfect man in charge but somehow makes him endearing.  Comedy abounds in this amusing show, and it is not just from the leads.  Ben Prayz is flawless as the put-upon director Roscoe Dexter; Peter Surace’s portrayal of the Diction Coach makes the number “Moses Supposes”; and Britte Steele is exactly what you hope for as Dora Bailey.

The costumes in this production are simply fabulous. Designer Kurt Alger’s choices are a feast for the eyes from the wonderful 1920’s period pieces to the elaborate movie costumes they wear.  This, combined with Scenic Designer David Arsenault’s appealing set, Zach Blane’s enchanting lighting, and Laura Shubert’s excellent sound design, created the perfect ambiance.  The orchestra’s outstanding performance, under direction from Jonathan Brenner, bolstered the entire show.

From hysterical silent pictures, and excellent live performances, to that exquisite dance in the rain, Singin’ in the Rain is perfection from start to finish.  Whether you’ve seen it many times, or perhaps this might be your first, Singin’ in the Rain should not be missed.

Times of Huntington-Northport Review

Theater Review: ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ makes a splash at the Engeman Theater

May 25, 2018
By Victoria Espinoza

The latest production at the John W. Engeman Theater will have you dancing and singing — rain or shine. “Singin’ in the Rain” premiered this past weekend to a full house and one of the most energetic crowds in past years.

The classic movie, which is regarded as one of the greatest movie musicals of all time, comes to life as soon as the curtain rises, bringing the glitz and glamour of Hollywood’s golden age to Northport. It’s 1927 and Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont are the toast of Tinseltown until silent films are threatened with the rise of talking pictures. The Northport stage is set to look like an old Hollywood film studio lot. David Arsenault, the set designer, creates a simple but inviting backdrop, and many times throughout the show the sets are used to enhance musical numbers and bring even more laughs to the audience.

While the songs, actors and sets all excel in this production, the choreography comes out on top. Drew Humphrey is both the director and choreographer for this show and brings audiences a nonstop party with intricate and joyful dance numbers that were accompanied by nonstop applause throughout the night. Standouts include “Fit as a Fiddle,” “Make Em Laugh,” “Good Morning” and, of course, the timeless classic, “Singin’ in the Rain.”

Danny Gardner, who plays Don Lockwood, brings all the magic of Gene Kelly’s iconic scene with his mile-long grin, infatuated attitude and love-struck dance moves. Perhaps the most excited the audience got was when the rain started to pour on stage and Gardner appeared in a fedora with an umbrella under his arm.

Tessa Grady and Brian Shepard round out the main trio as Kathy Selden and Cosmo Brown, respectively, and the chemistry between the three is great fun to watch. Shepard brings the biggest smiles to audiences’ faces with fun jokes and a charming and lovable attitude. He steals the scene in “Moses Supposes,” and you can’t help but look for him in every scene to see what fun little moments he brings to his character. All three stars have beautiful voices, and Grady does a great job bringing her talents to Kathy Selden to make her a confident, charming character with some great comedic moments as well.

Of course, the other character who delighted audiences with laughs was Lina Lamont, played by Emily Stockdale. The voice she was able to achieve for Lamont was impressive and hilarious and her short solo number in the second act was sharp and enjoyable. She brought great depth to what could’ve been a one-dimensional character.

An extra fun treat for audiences was the short films inside the musical. Producer Richard Dolce and Humphrey do a great job making the film shorts hilarious, and as an added bonus a recognizable spot, Northport Village Park, makes a cameo appearance. It makes the black-and-white shorts twice the fun when you see the recognizable white gazebo as a backdrop for a sword fight and a lovers reunion. The ensemble cast who are a part of these shorts also deserve a special shout out for the delight they bring to the small screen.

Musical Director Jonathan Brenner handles the numbers wonderfully, bringing all the right emotion each scene calls for. “Moses Supposes” excels not only for Shepard’s lovable conviction but also the way Brenner handles the music. The same can be said for “Good Morning.” This scene delivers on all the fun the original film brings, and although the characters aren’t trotting together from room to room, this production’s version encapsulates all the charm.

And even with all the fun, this production saves the best for last with a closing number you won’t want to miss. Kurt Alger, costume designer for the show, adds an extra pop with costume choices for the end, bringing extra color and fun to the stage. But, of course, the elegant period pieces in the show’s entirety are also a marvel to see, especially a French-style costume worn by Stockdale.

With more than just fan favorite songs, this musical promises to deliver a fun-filled evening for all who attend.

Huntington Now Review

“What a Glorious Feeling…” This Singin’ in the Rain

May 25, 2018
By Mary Beth Casper

Wow!

That was the overall reaction of the audience to a recent performance of Singin’ in the Rain, currently in production at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport.

The cast and crew were spectacular.   That’s no small feat when it comes to embarking upon a staged version of the iconic 1952 movie musical, which starred Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor.

The Engeman production has its own special razzle dazzle, though. Its exceptional cast, rousing song and dance numbers, beautiful costumes and wonderful special effects, came together perfectly under the expert guidance of director/choreographer, Drew Humphrey. Humphrey nipped in the bud any comparisons that could crop up between his production and the legendary film’s  by apparently directing his cast not to imitate the stars of the movie, but to put their own individualized stamp on their roles.

The performances soared.

The play’s storyline is the same as the Betty Comden and Adolph Green screenplay. It focuses — with laser beam humor — on the history of Hollywood’s transformation from silent pictures to “Talkies” during mid-1920s. It’s a love story, as well. One that smacks of old-fashioned innocence and charm.

Leading man Don Lockwood (played oh, so endearingly by Danny Gardner) and his leading lady, Lina Lamont (Emily Stockdale, a beauty with impeccable comic timing) are silent screen superstars. America can’t get enough of them.  The gossip columnists have created a love story around the two, but in reality, Don can’t stand Lina. She, however, refuses to believe that.

There’s another issue, too. When their studio boss, R.F. Simpson (the solid character actor Leer Leary) realizes the future belongs to talking pictures, he decides to take the plunge and bring his leading man and lady with him. How could this venture fail? After all, Don is a great song and dance man, and his speaking voice should transfer perfectly to film.

But, Lina? She may be gorgeous, but oh, that horrible voice! Her nasally, New Yawk accented screech, won’t be music to audiences’ ears. What will they do?

It’s Don and his best friend, lovable Cosmo Brown, (portrayed wonderfully by Brian Shepard) to the rescue. They’ll have spunky, actress, Kathy Selden (a delightful girl next door type, convincingly played by Tessa Grady) dub Lina’s voice. Unbeknownst to Lina, of course.

It can’t fail. Or, can it?

Naturally, love develops between Kathy and Don. And, when Lina gets wind of that romance, as well as of her voice being dubbed, the sparks fly.

While this play is chock full of splendid song and dance routines, none is as powerful as Gardner’s spectacular rendition of the show’s title song, Singin’ in the Rain. He brought the house down at the end of Act One with his joyful performance.   And, yes, it really rained down on him, thanks to a collaborative effort between the show’s scenic designer, David L. Arsenault and the theater’s technical director, Timothy Moran.

A standing ovation, ensued. Followed by another, for the stage hands who mopped up the puddles during intermission.

Whatever you do, don’t miss this show.

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