By Elizabeth Germain, West Springfield High School
“What’s the first thing an actor learns? The show must go on!” This is easier said than done in “Singin’ in the Rain,” performed this past weekend at Freedom High School.
This 1983 musical with book by Betty Comden and Adolph Green and music by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown is based on the hit 1952 movie of the same name and is set in the time of Hollywood’s tumultuous transition from silent films to the ‘talkies.’ Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont are Hollywood’s top romantic duo on screen and the tabloids have wedding bells ringing for them despite no actual romantic relationship. Still, Don must hide his budding romance with the aspiring young actress Kathy Seldon. When the studio decides to make a Lockwood and Lamont talking picture, Lina’s voice, which is obnoxious enough to “bring back silent pictures,” spells ruin for the film. Then, Don’s best friend Cosmo has an idea that just might save the movie.
Ethan Van Slyke expertly portrayed Don Lockwood with stunning vocals in the 1950’s crooning style, intricate tap dancing, and nuanced acting. He imbued the iconic number “Singin’ in the Rain” with a carefree joyful spirit as he splashed in the falling water and gracefully twirled and tossed his umbrella. His profession of love in “You Were Meant for Me” was heartfelt and warmly received by Julia Leipertz as Kathy Seldon.
Josh Lee sublimely portrayed Cosmo Brown. He tap-danced effortlessly alongside Van Slyke in rambunctiously fun vaudevillian numbers such as “Fit as a Fiddle” and “Moses Supposes.” His voice blended beautifully with Van Slyke’s and their dynamic was that of lifelong best friends. Whether he was racing about the stage making a fool of himself in “Make ‘Em Laugh” or demonstrating his vision of a grand cinematic tap number in “Broadway Rhythm,” Lee tirelessly committed to the role. Another notable performance was given by Sarah Rice as Lina Lamont. She consistently maintained Lina’s high-pitched whiny voice even when she sang and made evident her jealousy of Kathy and her constant need for adoration. Luke Rahman shone as the frustrated director Roscoe Dexter and Stephanie Celem as the charismatic reporter Dora Bailey.
The costumes by Hannah Peters, Anna McDonald, and the costumes crew fit the period and the blue-and-purple color scheme of the show. In the title song, TJ Hartless, Ryan Burke, and Kayla Cooper successfully made it rain onstage, adding to the number’s whimsicality. The show featured several clips of both silent and talking black-and-white pictures featuring Don and Lina. These were created by Kensley Hess, Amanda Wilfong, and Ryan Burke, and had the look and sound of real 1920’s film. Among the most impressive aspects of the show was the choreography by Austin Taylor and Ethan Van Slyke. Not only did these two performers pull off intricate tap moves as featured dancers, they also ensured that every ensemble member looked good. Each number was clear and crisp and of a slightly different flavor from the one before.
Strong performances and creative technical elements brought together Freedom High School’s performance of Singin’ in the Rain. “Come rain, come shine, come snow, come sleet, the show must go on,” and this particular show went on spectacularly.
[This review of the March 9 performance at Freedom High School is part of a series published in a partnership between Loudoun Now and The Cappies, a writing and awards program that trains high school theatre and journalism students to be expert writers, critical thinkers, and leaders.]