Just about everybody is aware that the 1952 film Singin’ in the Rain is a classic of its kind, and most people — even those who’ve never seen it — can hum the title song. But not everyone is aware that the movie is an early example of a “jukebox musical.”
What that means is that the film incorporates popular songs, in this case penned by the team of Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed in the 1920s and 30s, and brings them together in a single show. These standards still set your toe-tapping, eight or nine decades on.
Summer in Sacramento means classic shows from the Broadway at Music Circus series. Its new season began Tuesday with a sold-out performance of Singin’ in the Rain – the show’s first mounting by the company. And it’s worth checking out for the iconic songs, and the falling rain during the title tune.
But there’s also other favorites. “Good Morning” is an upbeat number featuring three characters who’ve just pulled an all-nighter working desperately on salvaging an overdue project. Sunny optimism shines in the goofy “Make ‘Em Laugh.” And “Moses Supposes”: giddy word play involving starchy elocution teachers who are hired to work with terrified actors who now need to speak lines (Singin’s plot involves the transition from silent films to talkies.)
These scenes are transferred rather faithfully from the iconic film. And in this production, the transfer is accomplished with an infectious sense of fun, keeping the mood of the show bubbly and spontaneous, despite the familiarity of the material
And then there’s the moment everyone has been waiting for, when the spigots above the stage open up, and lead actor Noah Racey comes onstage with an umbrella for the title song.
I’ve seen shows at the Mondavi with water effects, but the rain in this production is particularly heavy, and Racey enjoys dancing through the puddles in a boyish manner. Forgive the phrase, but this is a genuinely splashy performance — the management quite wisely provides patrons in the front row with plastic ponchos, so they don’t get soaked. After the title song concludes, it’s time for intermission, and a battalion of stagehands with shop vacs and towels spend 20 minutes mopping up the water before act two begins.
Mounting a new production of an established favorite can be a risky maneuver if the show lacks energy. But this well-cast, peppy staging launches this summer’s Music Circus series in an invigorating way. You know what they say about musical comedy – it only looks easy. Yet these dancers and singers create the sense that the whole thing’s almost effortless, even as they spring from one strenuous dance number to the next, keeping this cheerful production brisk throughout.
The Broadway at Music Circus production of Singin’ in the Rain continues through Sunday at the Wells Fargo Pavilion in Sacramento.