WESTON, Vt. – Executive Artistic Director of the Weston Playhouse Susanna Gellert, also the show’s director, welcomed the audience to the Walker Farm Theater on Friday, Aug. 4, for opening night of the musical “Singin’ in the Rain.” Gellert emphatically thanked the cast and crew, and everyone who pitched in to make sure the show would go on.
On July 10, the Weston Playhouse location, like much of Vermont, flooded. The damage was extensive, and as crews still endeavored to clean up, the team behind the musical reworked blocking and choreography in order to present the show at Walker Farm. The newer, more modern theater space, completed in 2017, has less than half as many seats as the playhouse, with 118 as opposed to 306.
Said Gellert, “We were in the midst of rehearsals when we realized that it would need to move to our more intimate theater, and so we’ve been imagining the show anew even while we are in process. I see this as a real opportunity for everyone to see a great, grand Broadway musical in an intimate setting. We’ll be focusing on the magic and brilliance of our amazing company of actors, this glorious music, and stunning choreography. There may be fewer bells and whistles than we originally planned, but I believe the show will be all the more magical for it.”
Gellert was correct – the premiere felt kind of magical and urgent. The tap-dancing routines were vibrant and impressive, and everyone in the talented cast brought heart, humor, and joy to their performances.
“Singin’ in the Rain” was first a 1952 movie starring Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald O’Connor, featuring classic songs such as “Fit as a Fiddle,” “Make ‘em Laugh,” and “Good Morning.” The stage musical was adapted from the film, and premiered in 1983.
The iconic lamppost scene where Gene Kelly taps and sings the title track was of course included, and one wondered if, when the stage door opened, it was actual rain or, ironically, did they have to use a rain machine.
In the role made famous by Kelly, Eric Sciotto hit all the high notes. A Broadway actor, director, and choreographer, Sciotto had to do a lot of the heavy lifting during the fast-paced show. As silent film star Don Lockwood, alongside his co-star Lina Lamont, played by Amy Jo Jackson, the pair find themselves struggling as film “talkies” become the new trend. It doesn’t help that Lamont, a darling of the silent film era, has a shrill voice and an accent she can’t shake. Lamont is stunned to realize her so-called relationship with Lockwood is only for publicity, and when Lockwood meets and falls in love with Kathy Seldon, a young actress, Lamont selfishly tries to stall the ingenue’s career. Jackson is perfectly ditzy and devious in their portrayal of Lamont.
In her second performance with the playhouse, Cameron Anika Hill brings an earnest confidence to the role of Seldon. Unlike Lamont, Seldon has a beautiful singing voice, and speaks without sounding like a cartoon character. Hill was last seen as Dionne in the 2022 season’s production of “Hair,” and has appeared on Broadway in “Dear Evan Hansen” and in the first national tour for the musical “Oklahoma!”
Conor McShane plays Lockwood’s pal Cosmo Brown, and brings a goofy humor to the sidekick role. McShane showcases some incredible dancing expertise, and he and Sciotto create a fun, believable camaraderie as life-long friends.
Kara Mikula as gossipy announcer Dora Bailey, and Isaiah Reynolds, who plays Roscoe Dexter, bring especially exuberant performances to the show. Reynolds last appeared at the playhouse in “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story,” as Tyrone.
The rest of the ensemble cast fills out the production wonderfully, all consummate performers who made the dance numbers look almost effortless.
“Singin’ in the Rain” runs through Aug. 20, and, due to the venue change, tickets are limited, but still available at the Weston Theater website.