Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Manitowoc troupe’s ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ is sunny

Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Manitowoc troupe’s ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ is sunny

Peter Quince Performing Company generates enthusiasm.

PHOTO: From upper left, the cast of Peter Quince Performing Company’s production of “Singin’ in the Rain” features Justin Mrotek, Aidan Senn, Megan Burback and Maddie Braun. Peter Quince Performing Company photo

MANITOWOC, Wis. (WFRV) – Stories abound surrounding Peter Quince Performing Company’s delightful production of “Singin’ in the Rain” playing through Sunday, Aug. 10, at Capitol Civic Center. Info: www.cccshows.org. The core: The show is entertaining.

The musical is based on the 1952 movie starring dancing whizzes Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor and the radiant Debbie Reynolds. The adaptation came along more than 30 years after the movie, with revivals springing up a few years ago.

The story sweeps to Hollywood at the end of the silent movie era and the start of the “talkies.” Included is a touch of vaudeville, told in a comical way. Two song-and-dance buddies have moved up in their careers – Don Lockwood becoming a big star and Cosmo Brown his creative muse. Don Lockwood stars in romantic potboilers of the French musketeers era opposite Lina Lamont, a beauty with a beastly, squeaky voice. Don Lockwood meets up with a sweet singer-dancer, Kathy Selden, setting up fiery times for and with Lina Lamont as “talkies” take hold, starting with Kathy Selden dubbing the voice of Lina Lamont.

Two remarkable elements are the dancing and the movies within the show.

The movies: Two of the sepia-toned movies are of the silent era, with overripe acting and over-the-top titles. The movies are teasing, but they give the flavor of the silent era. Another movie comes with voicing, also in comical ways. Much effort goes into pulling this off (an extra element atop everything else in a “normal,” demanding production).

The dancing: The original movie was a showcase for the great popular/artistic dancer Gene Kelly and sidekick/novelty dancer Donald O’Connor. As their counterparts, Justin Mrotek (Don Lockwood) and Aidan Senn (Cosmo Brown) jump right in the deep end and come across swimmingly. Energy springs from them, whether together in the vaudeville-style antics of “Fit as a Fiddle” or Justin Mrotek in the joyous and iconic “Singin’ in the Rain” or Aidan Senn in the goofball “Make ’em Laugh” or teaming with Megan Burback (Kathy Selden) in the happy-go-lucky “Good Mornin’” or Justin Mrotek with the company in the whoop-dee-do showcase “Broadway Melody.” Everything’s not perfect, but all the tap dancing and show dancing capture the spirit.

“Singin’ in the Rain” is loaded with great songs. Justin Mrotek taps into the two sides of “You Stepped Out of a Dream,” mocking at first, then sung with sincerity. Megan Burback delivers the color of “You are My Lucky Star” and “Would You.” Spencer Wrolson embodies the Golden Tenor in the grandiose “Beautiful Girls,” and Maddie Braun is terrific (all around, too) as Lina Lamont in the heated “What’s Wrong with Me,” a squall of a song. For the rap style of the era, there’s the nimble “Moses Supposes” tongue twister.

All that goes into the creative team’s efforts works well for an enjoyable production (4½ stars out of 5, adding in the earnestness of all).

***

Creative: Original film screenplay – Betty Comden, Adolph Green; songs – Nacio Herb Brown, Arthur Freed; Peter Quince producer – Alyssa K. Soja; president – Phillip Jindra; general directors – Gabrielle Alexander, Maxwell Alexander; choral director – Sarah Conard; music director Lisa Kroeger; choreographer – Patrick Ressler; art designer – Audrey Ressler; costume designer – Phillip Jindra; props masters – Max Alexander, Lindsey Buss; head seamstress – Alyssa Soja; make-up and hair designer – Tessa Komorowski; tech director/sound and lighting designer – Lisa Kroeger.

Cast: Don Lockwood – Justin Mrotek; Cosmo Brown – Aidan Senn; Kathy Selden – Megan Burback; Lina Lamont – Maddie Braun; Zelda Zanders – Emily Burish; R.F. Simpson – Sam Oswald; Roscoe Dexter – Simeon Heili; Miss Dinsmore – Mary Heili; Young Don – Noah Peterson; Young Cosmo – Jack Myers; Golden Tenor – Spencer Wrolson; Sid Philips – Lukas Peterson; Rod – Kevin Hofmann; Dora Bailey – Alyssa Soja; Olga Mara – Ariel Ducat; Mary Margaret – Olivia Lutterman; Mrs. Simpson – Emily Peterson; Sam the Butler – Chris Wienecke; Male the Vocal Coach – Phillip Jindra; Movie Villain – Jared Zipp; Policeman – Frank Salzberg; Show Girl – Lidia Zurcher; Lady-in-Waiting – Sophia Joski; Hairdresser – Ashley Tess; Wardrobe Mistress – Tessa Komorowski; Sound Engineer – Will Henning; Assistant Directors – Benjamin Smith, Cole Becker, Cole Becka; Ensemble Members: Lindsey Buss, Morgan Fessler, Isabelle Heinzen, Michelle Klavekoske, Audrey Ressler, Riley Rodriguez, Riley Seib.

Songs

Act I

Overture - Orchestra

“Fit as a Fiddle” - Don Lockwood, Cosmo Brown

“You Stepped Out of a Dream,” - Don Lockwood, Company

“Tango,” Dancers

“All I Do is Dream of You” - Kathy Selden, Girls

“You Stepped Out of a Dream” (Reprise) - Don Lockwood

“Make ’em Laugh” - Cosmo Brown

“Beautiful Girls” - Golden Tenor, Female Chorus (including Kathy Selden)

You Are My Lucky Star - Kathy Selden

You Were Meant for Me - Don Lockwood, Kathy Selden

“Moses Supposes” - Don Lockwood, Cosmo Brown

“Moses Supposes” (Reprise) - Company

“Good Mornin’” - Don Lockwood, Cosmo Brown, Kathy Selden

“Singin’ in the Rain” - Don Lockwood

Act II

Entr’acte - Orchestra

“Good Mornin’” (Reprise) - Company

“Would You?” - Kathy Selden

“What’s Wrong with Me?” - Lina Lamont

“Broadway Melody” - Cosmo Brown, Don Lockwood, Company

“Would You?” (Reprise) - Kathy Selden (Voicing for Lina), Cosmo Brown

“You are My Lucky Star” (Reprise) - Kathy Selden, Don Lockwood

“Singin’ in the Rain” (Finale) - Company

Exit Music - Orchestra

***

This production is big, but it is a mere tip of the iceberg for the rest of the story of what’s going on. In a sense, one of the great stories in theater anyplace is hidden in Manitowoc. That’s not meant to be condescending, but the larger world doesn’t pay much attention to youth groups. Maybe this will make up for that.

For “Singin’ in the Rain,” 89 students from 19 schools are involved in the production. Participants range in age from 12 to 23. The cutoff age for participation is 23. For instance, this is the final production for Alyssa K. Soja, 23, producer and performer in the role of radio celebrity Dora Bailey. This is her seventh year in the company.

The concept of 23 being the cutoff age was set at the start of Peter Quince Performing Company. That was 46 years ago. Forty-six years – hmmm – something seemingly unlikely happened. After the first wave of company members left, the idea continued. Peter Quince is/was not a real person. The name is from a playwriting/acting character in William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Rather than a person or an adult organization, the support mechanism for Peter Quince Performing Company was the idea. Wave after wave of Manitowoc area youngsters bought into the “laws” – no one over age 23, and everything is done by company members. From the message in the program: “The members of the company handle all aspects of production including: acquiring rights and scripts for the show, finding rehearsal and performance space, auditioning cast, getting together a pit and technical crew, building the set, designing/running the sound and lighting, choreographing the dances, managing scene changes, directing the show, and much more! Quince has something to offer for everyone.” Perhaps there are other youth-driven theater companies elsewhere that are hidden away like Peter Quince Performing Company. Little matter, because Peter Quince Performing Company is keeping on keeping on – “Keeping the Dream Alive” is the company motto – for the Manitowoc area to enjoy and putting on lively ventures like “Singin’ in the Rain.”

VENUE: The 1,134-seat Capitol Civic Centre features classically oriented styles befitting its 1921 origins as a combined vaudeville and movie palace. Two large, tiered, tear-drop clear crystal chandeliers grace shoulders on each side of the proscenium stage. All around is ornamentation – Corinthian capitals on faux columns, leaf-and-scroll braces beneath balcony and step-stage box seat areas, gold and red paint highlighting swirls and/or patterned geometric designs amid the cream-colored wall features. The ceiling is coffered. The fringe around the stage is ornate, with the stage curtain regal red with the Capitol Civic Center’s signature overlaid C’s standing out in the middle of the top hanging, which includes six tassels. Distinctive in the theater is the mezzanine, which is tucked far under the balcony and above the rear seats of the main floor. The lobby and meeting areas complement the rest of the theater in design. One area includes photo displays of stars and prominent personalities, including Charlton Heston and his wife, Two Rivers native, Lydia Clark Heston. The “Jewel on the Lakeshore” is home to 14 community arts, music and theater groups. Designed by local architect William J. Raueber and built by the local George Brothers, Arthur and John, the theater opened June 16, 1921, at Ascher Brothers’ Capitol Theatre under a lease agreement with the Chicago-based Ascher movie and vaudeville house operators.

You may email me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air features on WFRV between 6 and 8 a.m. Sundays.

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