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`SINGIN' IN THE RAIN' MAKES QUITE A SPLASH

I may get in trouble for saying this, but "Singin' in the Rain" was probably a poor choice for a season finale for SLCC's Grand Theatre.

Not because it's a bad show. In fact, it's a terrific show with lots of snappy tunes and funny dialogue.Not because it's a bad production. In reality, director/choreographer Alan LaFleur has done a first-rate job with a cast packed with fresh, energetic talent.

No, the main problem is that along the sidewalk separating the rear entrance to the Grand Theatre and the parking lot is something that landscape architects call a "water feature."

When I left the theater on Saturday night there was, appropriately, a light rain falling. I had the strongest urge to unfold my Eddie Bauer umbrella and splash my way around the fountain - gleefully jumping up and down in the water the same way Don Lockwood does in this show's most famous scene.

Somehow, I managed to refrain, but I'll bet others will have the same urge to cut loose and go "singin' and dancin' in the rain."

It could be fun, but it could also ruin your Florsheims, you might catch cold and you'd get strange looks from those passing by.

Stay on the sidewalk.

Meanwhile, for the legions of moviegoers who have memorized the classic MGM film version, this spiffy stage adaptation manages to stay very close to the original.

There are some cases where a play being "cinematic" would be a problem, but "Singin' in the Rain" is cinematic by its very nature - a behind-the-scenes spoof on Hollywood in the throes of new-fangled "talkies" in 1927.

What amazes me is how well "Singin' in the Rain" works in being transferred from the screen to the stage.

The key characters and all the songs are intact (with the addition of one new song toward the end - "What's Wrong With Me?" - silent screen star Lina Lamont pondering why Monumental Pictures wants to dump her).

The main leads in this lively production are first-rate, especially Bert Benson and Jared Wright Brubaker as longtime pals and tap-dancers Don Lockwood and Cosmo Brown (the roles played by the legendary Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor on the screen). Those are tough shoes to fill, but Benson and Brubaker are more than up to the task.

The show's two main female roles - perky, up-and-coming starlet Kathy Selden and really dumb, ditzy blonde Lina Lamont (whose grating voice would drive anyone nuts) - are nicely played by Megan Brunsvold and Gaynl McAllister.

The huge ensemble has some other standouts, too, notably J. Brian Casson as studio mogul R.F. Simpson, Julie Finnegan as gossip columnist Dora Bailey, Shawn Bender as the tenor in the "Beautiful Girls" production number and Leslie Allen and Shawn Zumbrunnen as a couple of exasperated diction coaches.

During the overture, the famous Hollywoodland sign is shown on a distant hillside, with sparking stars glowing overhead - a hint of the human "stars" who flock to premiers at the legendary Grauman's Chinese Theatre.

The zany pratfalls of Cosmo's famous "Make 'em Laugh" worked remarkably well on stage.

The 16-piece orchestra is kept busy through 19 songs, including a few reprises, and the show was further enhanced by J. Chad Davis' scenery, Diane Allen's costumes and Michael Klint's sound and lighting (except Lockwood's narration of his early years during the "Fit as a Fiddle" number was drowned out by the music).

Despite 19 scenes that constantly shift from sound stages to Hollywood Boulevard to theater screenings, the scenery moves swiftly and smoothly.