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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Sunny performances spark ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ in De Pere

Critic At Large

St. Norbert College Music Theatre-Summer Stage

Molly Lucareli as Kathy Seldon, Bob Pekol (center) as Cosmo Brown and Jarrod Pfarr as Don Lockwood star in “Singin’ in the Rain” presented by St. Norbert College Music Theatre-Summer Stage. (Company photo)

DE PERE, Wis. (WFRV)

Yes, there is rain.

Yes, there is lively and difficult dancing.

Yes, there is lovely singing.

Those are key answers with the production of “Singin’ in the Rain” presented by St. Norbert College Music Theatre-Summer Stage.

Nine more performances remain in Walter Theatre of Abbot Pennings Hall of Fine Arts on campus.

It’s a darling of a production. Historical, comical, melodical and a-live.

The story dials back to a turn in the film industry. It’s the end of the 1920s, and movies are slipping into the sound phase and leaving the silent era behind. Actors have to speak and sing now, and some silent stars can’t cut it. “Singin’ in the Rain” is about a star duo suddenly on separate paths, their screen romance totally smashed by the real thing for one.

The stage show is drawn from a super-popular movie with songs from one of the best songwriting teams ever and dances by one of the most inventive film dancers ever.

It’s kind of crazy to try to duplicate film on stage, but that’s ever-daring musical theater for you. The live element is the attraction – real people on stage vs. the two-dimensional on screen.

Leading the way in this production – with much thanks to the collaboration of Stephen Rupsch (director), Kent Paulsen (music director), Kristin Roling (choreographer), Greg Kaye (scenic designer) and Ruth Novak (costume designer) are the four leads.

+ Jarrod Pfarr portrays big-time, swashbuckling silent star Don Lockwood, who is teamed with Lina Lamont. The duo’s work is re-created in black-and-white screenings that add layers of aura of the era along with teasing and outright laughs. Jarrod Pfarr’s smooth voice embraces such warm songs as “You Stepped Out of a Dream” from the singable score. He dances smoothly, too, in solo, in duo, in ensemble. “Singin’ in the Rain” is the big, big number for Jarrod Pfarr, and he handles it with lots of limber footwork. Yes, water is pouring down as Jarrod Pfarr is singing and dancing as a guy really, really in love. Very cool. Kudos to choreographer Kristin Roling, who infuses degrees of difficulty here (and elsewhere) to give dances snap.

+ Emily H. Tomcek portrays Lina Lamont, the flamboyant silent movie queen with the voice of a squeaky door hinge you’ve been meaning to oil for years. In ways, this is Lina Lamont’s story because she is the one left behind and she is fighting it all the way, like a hornet disrupted. Emily H. Tomcek is fully in character all the way – the scenery-chewing silent actress, the woman scorned, the dumb-like-a-fox blonde “bimbo,” the headstrong and short-sighted ego. She delivers “What’s Wrong with Me?” loaded with meaning in her character’s ever-squawky voice.

+ Molly Lucareli portrays Kathy Selden, representing the Hollywood legend of the star accidentally discovered. Molly Lucareli is a triple threat as she sings, dances and acts. In the show, Don Lockwood sings to her character “You Were Meant for Me.” In stage terms, this role was meant for Molly Lucareli. Her voice is sweet and colorful in such songs as “You are My Lucky Star,” “Good Morning” and “Would You.” Molly Maher Lucareli has danced a zillion steps on local stages, and here she is limber and quick and packed with energy – with a cartwheel tossed in. And she is expressive in acting.

+ Bob Pekol portrays Cosmo Brown, the lippy class clown who has escaped into the real world to pop other’s balloons left and right. Bob Pekol is a firecracker – energetic and flashy. He’s a teammate in such zippy numbers as the rhythm-catchy “Moses Supposes” song/dance routine and the snappy and bright “Good Morning.”

Supporting roles are filled with eagerness and vinegar and humor all around. It’s a solid ensemble.

The scenic design by Greg Kaye includes a special setup for the standard proscenium arch, with added waves of curtains at the top and a fan display in the middle. The overture includes a changeable lighting “show” on these elements. A major creation in backdrop pieces is a take on the grandiose façade of Graumann’s Chinese Theatre – purely over-the-top Hollywood of the time.

St. Norbert College Music Theatre is in its 58th year. A certain expectation in production comes with the name. It is there in “Singin’ in the Rain” in abundance.

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Creative: Based on the 1952 movie, screenplay by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, featuring songs by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed; director – Stephen Rupsch; music director – Kent Paulsen; choreographer – Kristin Roling; scenic designer – Greg Kaye; lighting designer, video designer – Andrew Schmitz; costume designer – Ruth Novak; hair, make-up designer – Stacey Nellen-Kolze; sound engineers – Chris Gabryszek, Paul Mashl; props designer – Patricia Grimm; technical director – Corey Allan Pinchart; stage manager – Sarah Conard; assistant choreographer – Elizabeth Jolly; dance captains – Hayley Eastman, Sara Eastman

Cast (in order of appearance):

Dora Bailey – Margi Diny

Zelda Zanders – Mary Waterhouse

Olga Mara – Rachel Ziolkowski

Mary Margaret – Erin Janssen

R.F. Simpson – Michael Ajango

Rosco Dexter – Alicia Skrivanie

Cosmo Brown – Bob Pekol

Lina Lamont – Emily H. Tomcek

Don Lockwood – Jarrod Pfarr

Young Don – Joseph Dean Kolze

Young Cosmo – Georgia Steenbock

Martin (Villain) – Jeffrey Vanderlin

Ladies-in-Waiting – Annicka Rabida, Erin Janssen

Rod – Aaron Weber

Kathy Selden – Molly Lucareli

Policeman – Hunter Vannieuwenhoven

Man on Screen – Michael Rosewall

Butler – Annicka Rabida

1st Assistant Director – Preston Pelegrin

2nd Assistant Director – Jordan Schuman

3rd Assistant Director – Braden Cooper

Wardrobe Mistress – Margi Diny

Hairdresser – Lorelei Zimmerman

Production Singer – John Dicks

Sid Phillips – Jeffrey Vanderlin

Miss Dinsmore – Erin Hunsader

Male Diction Teacher – Aaron Weber

Photographer, Sound Engineer – Ben Kim Paplham

Cameraman – Hunter Vannieuwenhoven

Bouncer – Devon Breecher

Workmen – Devon Breecher, Preston Pelegrin

Ensemble – Katelyn Badeau, Hayley Eastman, Sara Eastman, Erin Janssen, Brittney Koerner, Diana Pokotylo, Joy Rockstroh, Allison Sheski, Kelsey M. Steeno, Hannah Vanden Huevel, Lorelei Zimmerman, Rachel Ziolkowski

Orchestra: Conductor/keyboard – Kent Paulsen; flute, clarinet, saxophone – Nathan Ortiz; trumpet – Brad Terrell; violin – John Kelley; bass, tuba – Charlie DeVillers; drums, percussion – Bryanna Moody

Running time: 2½ hours

Remaining performances: 7:30 p.m. July 12; 1 and 6:30 p.m. July 14; 7:30 p.m. July 17, 18, 19; 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. July 20; 1 p.m. July 21

Info: snc.edu/tickets

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Musical selections

Act I

Overture – Orchestra

“Fit as a Fiddle” – Don, Cosmo

“You Stepped Out of a Dream” – Don Lockwood, Ensemble

“All I Do is Dream of You” – Kathy, Coconut Grove Girls

“Make ’em Laugh” – Cosmo

“Beautiful Girl” – Production Singer

You Are My Lucky Star – Kathy

You Were Meant for Me – Don

“Moses Supposes” – Don, Cosmo

“Moses Supposes” (Reprise) – Ensemble

“Good Morning” – Kathy, Cosmo, Don

“Singin’ in the Rain” – Don

Act II

Entr’acte – Orchestra

“Would You?” – Kathy

“Would You?” (Reprise) – Don

“What’s Wrong with Me?” – Lina

“Broadway Melody” – Cosmo, Don, Ensemble

“Lina’s Would You?” – Kathy, Cosmo

“You are My Lucky Star” (Reprise) – Don, Kathy

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

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THE VENUE: The 725-seat Byron L. Walter Theatre features a proscenium stage (flat front). Its walls are textured concrete blocks laid in a wave pattern. The ceiling includes white acoustical clouds. Seat material and carpeting are the traditional theater red. The theater is located in Abbot Pennings Hall of Fine Arts at St. Norbert College in De Pere. It is the larger of two theaters in the building, the core of which was built in 1955. In 1989, the Walter Theatre was renovated to improve the lobby and interior aesthetic, adding seating and improving the acoustics.

THE PERSON: Byron L. Walter (1877-1954) was a businessman. He operated Green Bay Hardware, Inc. until his retirement in 1953. Walter was co-founder of Paper Converting Machine Co. and for a time served as president. After his death, the Byron L. Walter Family Trust was established, and it made possible the theater. The trust continues to make widespread contributions to community projects and institutions.

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