‘Singin’ in the Rain’ – no drought about it

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Preview: SDMT forecasts staying true to film classic with stage musical
By James Hebert MAY 19, 2015

The stage adaptation of “Singin’ In The Rain” is made from recycled material.

And at San Diego Musical Theatre, same for the rain.

Yes, there will be precipitation — or a simulation of it — in SDMT’s production of the musical classic, which opens this week at the Spreckels Theatre. But as director Todd Nielsen notes with a laugh, “It’s a little dicey doing this show in a drought situation, isn’t it?”

So SDMT has set up a system that will drain the rainwater back into a 55-gallon tank, from which it can be pumped back up to fall onstage again.

Fortunately, Nielsen adds, the water is heated, “so it’s not pouring cold water on everybody.”

And you’d hate to pour cold water on one of the most beloved musical sagas ever to cross the big screen — and more recently the live stage.



When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays. Through June 7.

Where: San Diego Musical Theatre at the Spreckels Theatre, 121 Broadway, downtown

Tickets: $35-$65 (discounts available)

Phone: (858) 560-5740

Online: sdmt.org

The show, first produced in 1983, is a close adaptation of the 1952 movie musical starring Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor as showbiz types of various stripes.

Like the movie, the musical documents those characters’ comic efforts to make the transition from silent films to “talkies” in 1920s Hollywood.

And like the movie — the most famous collaboration of the Broadway/movie writing duo Betty Comden and Adolph Green — the stage version rolls out such Nacio Herb Brown numbers as the title song, “Make ’Em Laugh” and “Moses Supposes.”

“It’s really very faithful to (the movie),” says Nielsen, who set aside early notions of bringing a high-concept approach to the piece. “There are a couple of surprises, and we’ve added a few twists here and there, and put our own spin on it. But it’s the classic movie onstage.”

Did you know?

SDMT’s production of “Singin’ in the Rain” will benefit the nonprofit Voices for Children — a thematic nod to the way “talkies” give voice to movie actors in the musical.

It’s also one well-suited to the house SDMT is staging it in: The Spreckels, built in 1912, began showing silent movies in 1922, but then had to make its own transition to talkies a few years later.

“The venue’s great,” says Nielsen, who previously directed “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” at SDMT’s former home of the North Park Theatre. “I walked in there and it completely reminded me of those wonderful old Broadway theaters.

“It’s classic, which is just perfect for the show. And it’s got a little more room backstage (than the North Park venue), which has really helped.”

Director Todd Nielsen has a chat with his cast during “Singin’ in the Rain” rehearsals. — Hayne Palmour IV

Director Todd Nielsen has a chat with his cast during “Singin’ in the Rain” rehearsals. — Hayne Palmour IV

That’s because the production is a big one: 29 cast members and a 20-piece orchestra. It features one second-act dance number (choreographed by Jill Gorrie) that’s a daunting 13 minutes long and has some actors changing costumes three or four times in the midst of it.

On top of all that, Nielsen has set up a mini-movie studio with its own production staff in order to create a film that figures into the show.

So if Nielsen and Co. can manage to tackle all those tasks, surely this “Rain” could also cure a little drought?

“I wish we could,” says Nielsen. “We could loan San Diego our 55-gallon drum.”

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