'Singin' in the Rain' Taps its Way Into Hearts at New Village Arts
by Cassiopeia Guthrie, May 23
Umbrellas and tap dancing might be what this show is known for, but it’s the dulcet vocals of the leads that steal the spotlight in New Village Arts’ production of Singin’ in the Rain, running through July 2.
The classic musical written by Betty Comden, Adolph Green, Nacio Herb Brown, and Arthur Freed follows the shift from silent films to talkies through the eyes of a quartet of performers: Hollywood sweethearts Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont, stage actor Kathy Seldon, and Don’s friend and set musician Cosmo Brown. As Hollywood wrestles with the new technology, it becomes apparent that while some performers are suited only to a muted screen (namely Lina, a larger-than-life actress played lovingly by Audrey Ward), others are more able to adapt to the demands of an audio-on environment.
It is in this space that consummate performers Don (Anthony Michael Vacio) and Kathy (Emma Nossal) run across one another in a chance meet-cute and, ultimately, fall in love, much to Lina’s distaste. Don’s friend Cosmo (Xavier J. Bush) steps in both as comic relief and as moral support through the transition.
In New Village Arts’ production, turn by turn, each of these principal actors has a chance to shine. Exceptional triple threats who carry a strong command of their given roles, frankly, each is utterly charming in his or her individual moments as well as ridiculously talented vocally. They tackle the book flawlessly and consistently in a way that speaks to the careful work of music directors Nina Gilbert and Korie Yamaoka.
Also delightful were Kiara Hudlin’s scenes as RF Simpson, Nick Siljander’s turn as Roscoe Dexter, and Olivia Pence’s Zelda, and the other ensemble members (Hunter Brown, Kaia Bugler, Rachel Ford, Max Lecanu-Fayet, Marcy Ledvinka, Ethan Marr, Stephanie Monis, Reid Moriarty, Cara Tafolla, and Kylie Young) are charismatic and energetic as they spin their way around the stage.
Additionally, not only does the cast the maintain their full commitment to characterization during their charming scenes, but they also do so through well-directed and smoothly silhouetted scene changes, meticulously and intentionally blocked by director AJ Knox to reposition the two pieces of rolling scaffolding to stand in for various sets (under the oversight of scenic designer Kristianne Kurner alongside scenic consultant, Doug Cumming).
The show Singin’ in the Rain, as previously mentioned, needs strong dance material in conjunction with acting and vocal work in order to work. In this version, choreographers Katie Banville and Jenna Ingrassia-Knox have risen to the occasion, crafting routines that are entertaining and, in the meantime, ensuring that each performer is prepared for the rigor of hoofing around the stage in tap shoes. While there are varied degrees of strength in tap, this is one of the spaces in which Bush, who plays Cosmo, and Vacio, as Don Lockwood, stand out; their dance duet numbers are phenomenally executed and the joy of the performance seeps out of their pores and shines through their facial expressions. This is likewise the case when sunny and sweet-voiced ingenue Nossal joins in as Kathy for the charming “Good Morning.”
Notably, sound design for this production has been tackled masterfully by co-designers Ethan Eldred and Marcus Rico (who doubles as the sound engineer). While a show like this one begs for live music where possible, the tracks used are amplified in a way that feels authentic, a feat I rarely experience in small theatres. Kudos to their team for this achievement; it really makes the entire experience more immersive and enjoyable. Eldred is also to be commended for era-evocative video projections which are interspersed throughout the production, as is Annelise Salazar for delightful backlighting and colored LED effects and Amanda Quivey for the lovely era-appropriate costumes.
All in all, Singin’ in the Rain at New Village Arts is everything that I hoped: a joyful, carefree celebration of romance and art. Be sure to catch it before it closes July 2.