Many film buffs single out “Singin’ in the Rain” as the best movie musical ever made. For Derby Dinner Playhouse the stage adaptation, now revived after a glorious 2003 production celebrating the theatre’s 30th anniversary, certainly ranks among the top musicals ever presented there.
Once again the audience becomes almost giddy with anticipation as plastic raincoats are passed out to those sitting closest to the dazzling routine by hoofer Justin Ostergard, playing movie star Don Lockwood, who replicates Gene Kelly’s joyous splashing-through-rain song and dance to the title tune. It’s a knockout.
The classic MGM screenplay by Betty Comden and Adolph Green depicts a time when Hollywood had to phase out silent films because talking pictures were coming in.
Lina Lamont, Don Lockwood’s co-star in silents (Jillian Prefach, a good sport playing a nasty character) has a screechy voice that can’t make the transition. So Don and his fellow dancing star Cosmo Brown (Matthew Brennan) concoct a scheme to dub Don’s new love interest Kathy Selden (Kayla Peabody) to speak and sing on screen for Lina.
Vowing retribution via her contract when she learns of this, Lina almost triumphs before Don and Cosmo come up with a neat way to foil her.
The plot gives pleasure but best of all are the songs by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed, many from earlier MGM musicals (Scott Bradley is musical director), along with Heather Paige Folsom’s choreography from the brilliant original movie work of Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, as well as the fanciful period costumes by Sharon Murray Harrah. Associate producer Lee Buckholz provides impeccable direction for the show produced by Bekki Jo Schneider.
Ostergard and Peabody (in the Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds parts) are captivating young lovers while Brennan (in the Donald O’Connor part) gives a whirlwind eye-catching performance that totally satisfies. His “Make ‘Em Laugh” is a tour de force.
The three of them barrel through an infectious “Good Morning” with its memorable couch overturning as they dance on it. “Fit as a Fiddle” turns into a rousing tap sequence for Ostergard, Brennan, and two male violinists while “You Are My Lucky Star” becomes a theme for Ostergard and Peabody.
The hilarious “Moses Supposes” takes off from diction lessons the silent stars need. And for a spectacular production number, second only to the “Singin’ in the Rain” episode, there’s the razzle-dazzle “Broadway Melody.”
Playing standout secondary roles are Elizabeth Loos as Dora Bailey, a fussy Louella Parsons type interviewer, and J. R. Stuart as director Rosco Dexter with a German accent to accompany his jodhpurs, boots, riding crop, and beret.
The Footnotes, servers and actors who always sing before Playhouse shows, outdo themselves with clever riffs on rain songs as instructions are given to those who might get splashed at ringside. They seem to know a lot of them, ranging from “Soon It’s Gonna Rain” to “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” to “Stormy Weather” to “It’s Raining Men.”
“Singin’ in the Rain” runs through May 18. For tickets and information: 812-288-8281, toll free 877-898-8577, or www.derbydinner.com.