Monday, March 20, 2023

By John Baggett

Tyler Civic Theatre is wrapping up their summer musical season in style. Before the brand new season starts, which looks like I’m in for another year of treats, we must laugh, dance, and sing as they bring to the stage the classic, “Singin’ in the Rain.”  Based on the classic film, our story takes place in 1927, a time when silent film stars Don Lockwood (Ryan Ormandy) and his on-screen (but not off screen) love interest, Lina Lamont (Bailey Crawford), rule the big screen. However, their days could be numbered as a new sensation is about to hit the cinemas – talking pictures. What was once considered to be a folly turns into a smash, which leads R.F. Simpson (Roger Pharr), head of Monumental Pictures, to shut down on the production of the next Lockwood & Lamont movie and turn it into a talkie. Which is fine except for one tiny problem – Lina has a voice made for silent pictures…and only silent pictures.

While his star power might be in danger, Lockwood has other things on his mind. Namely, a girl named Kathy Seldon (Ashten Lane), a young woman with the desire to be a real actress, a stage actress, not a movie star. Despite her insults, Lockwood falls for this future star, and after an accident involving cake and Lina’s face, Don searches the city for Kathy after she loses her job.

Lockwood runs into Kathy on the set of a different film, where she is made to audition for R.F., and mend fences with her. R.F. signs her to a role, and demands no one tells Lina that Kathy is on set. Lockwood and best friend/musical accompaniment Cosmo Brown (Jordan Boyd) try to turn the new film into a success, but audiences turn on it in test screenings, mostly thanks to Lina’s performance and sound issues. Cosmo gets the bright idea that Kathy could perform Lina’s parts off screen and Lockwood agrees. With the help of R.F. and manic director Roscoe Dexter (Stephen Rainwater), our trio of heroes set out to make “The Dancing Cavalier” a smashing success, but they face one tiny hurdle – Lina Lamont.

“Singin’ in the Rain” is one of the biggest productions to grace the Civic Theatre stage. This production was directed by Michael Ward, who previously directed “Les Miserables” for TCT, with exceptional choreography by Shelby Moy, a TCT veteran whose previous credits include “Hairspray” and “Legally Blonde.” With as much work that obviously went into this production, this pair brought to life a stage production that honestly rivals its film predecessor in terms of pure entertainment. The music comes to life thanks to music director, Tyler McCuan, who also previously worked on “Les Mis.”

It takes a lot of guts to fill the shoes of Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds, but Ormandy and Lane knock it out of the park. Ormandy, who recently came back to the stage at TCT, has never been better. I’ve enjoyed him in the productions I’d previously seen him in, but this is legitimately the best performance he has delivered. Lane, in her Civic Theatre debut, has a flawless voice and the acting chops to back it up. She absolutely must come back for more shows because this level of talent needs to continue to perform.

Boyd, who rocked the house in last year’s “Rock of Ages,” comes incredibly close to stealing the show at times. In the two shows I have seen him in, which also includes “The Little Mermaid,” I already knew what he was capable of and he exceeded those expectations. Crawford, who I have only seen in “Hairspray,” is phenomenal as she does the one thing that is hard for great actors – act badly. She is conniving and scheming, and absolutely hilarious.

As our producer and director, Pharr and Rainwater have built an incredible reputation from their previous performances, and it’s no surprise they’re great in this show too. Pharr is a man, who when I see his name in the program, I don’t have to worry about him, because he is going to give an exceptional performance. (Something that runs in the family.) Rainwater, who gave a career best performance in “Little Shop of Horrors,” gives the most manic, over the top performance I’ve ever seen him deliver and he will leave you in stitches.

The rest of the ensemble (there are so many of them) is equally wonderful. As young Lockwood and Cosmo, Cameron Ames and Zachary Combs are adorable and amazing dancers. The rest of the cast, all playing multiple roles both on stage and in the audience, have moments to shine amongst the glitz and glamour, not to mention they are all dancing so much I was exhausted just watching them.

All kidding aside, they are all great, and while I wish I could give individual compliments to every single one of them, I will at least mention you all by name as a thank you for being a part of easily one of my favorite shows at Tyler Civic Theatre. These wonderful people are Chauncie Thompson, Elfin Morgan, Jennifer Rader, Ryan Jackson, Kelci O’Brien, Sierra Wiliams, Gordon Holmes, Annette Rios, Cameron Davis, Haven Elliot, Madelynn Crow, Darby Owens, and Bryan Knous. Kudos to all of you.

Yes, I said it. “Singin’ in the Rain” is one of my favorite shows at Tyler Civic Theatre. Whether you’re a fan of the movie or if you’ve never seen it, I urge you to go see this fantastic musical. You will laugh, you will sing, and you will probably end up with “Moses supposes his toesis are roses” on an infinite loop in your head as you’re trying to focus on work. (Okay, that last one may be just specific to me.) Still, go see this show. It’ll will leave you with a smile on your face.

‘”Singin’ in the Rain” opened on Thursday, July 26th and runs through Sunday, August 12th. For more information and to purchase tickets call (903) 592-0561 or go to Tyler Civic Theatre is located at 400 Rose Park Drive.


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