Drury Lane Theatre: “Singin’ in the Rain”

The perfect illustration of the art and science that is theatrical production is found in Drury Lane Theatre’s current presentation, “Singin’ in the Rain.”

Art abounds in the show’s terrific dancing, professional vocals and instrumentation and stunning costumes and special effects. It doesn’t just rain on stage; it pours.

But in the Oakbrook Terrace production’s second week, the story’s dynamic leading trio, brought to life on the silver screen in 1952 by Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds, is still working for a passing grade in chemistry.

To be fair, it’s medical science causing this quandary for Tony Yazbeck as Don Lockwood, Matthew Crowle as Cosmo Brown and Jenny Guse as Kathy Seldon. Yazbeck was summoned to this stage in mid-November when originally-cast Lockwood, Sean Palmer, suffered an injury during one of the final previews.

The good news for Chicagoland lovers of timeless musical-theater like “Singin’…” is that Yazbeck sports an impressive Broadway and off-Broadway resume, a tremendous triple-threat skillset and experience in the role at the St. Louis MUNY in 2011. He and his equally talented co-stars simply need repetition to sell the lifelong friendship of Lockwood and Brown and the burgeoning love affair between Lockwood and Seldon.

While director Bill Jenkins and Drury Lane’s artistic team fully realized the show must go on, at least they have a classic musical that doesn’t go on and on and on. Many older shows seem too drawn-out for today’s instant-gratification-seeking audiences, “Singin’…” does not.

It’s a delightful tale of glamorous Hollywood’s transition from silent films to talkies in the late 1920s with a ditzy blonde and a love triangle to boot. A full synopsis is found here.

This show’s signature numbers, “Fit as a Fiddle,” “Make ‘em Laugh,” “Good Mornin’” and the title song are lovely. Kudos to Crowle, who’s obviously having the time of his life in this male professional dancer’s dream role. And the big production numbers, “Beautiful Girl,” and “Broadway Melody/Rhythm” illustrate this artistic team’s dedication to high quality regional theater. No expense was spared on costuming.

That said, the unit set of a Monumental Pictures soundstage in front of which all the production’s action takes place is, to at least one observer, distracting and perplexing. And the light pole has Yazbeck swaying in the rain probably a bit more than he would like.

With a run through the holidays, ending in mid-January, this production’s star triumvirate needs to feed off the energy supplied by daily sellout (or nearly so) audiences to achieve their necessary chemistry. A scientific analysis of their resumes and Drury Lane’s recent history of quality suggests they will.

“Singin’ in the Rain” runs through January 13 at the Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, less than a 1-hour drive from all North Shore suburbs. Parking is complimentary. Information and tickets ($35-$46 with additional dinner packages and senior and student discounts for some shows) are available online or by phone (630) 530-0111.

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