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Published: Wednesday, 6/20/2001

Croswell production of 'Singin' in the Rain' damp but delightful


ADRIAN - For fans of classic musicals, Gene Kelly's dancing in a downpour in Singin' in the Rain is peerless.

But New York actor Jeff Statile puts his own engaging spin on the scene, complete with rainstorm, in the opening production of the Croswell Opera House's 2001 summer musical series.

Although Singin' in the Rain is a movie classic, there's still something magical about seeing it live. When Donald O'Connor does his high-energy “Make 'Em Laugh” song and dance in the movie, one can delight in his talent but still wonder how many times the director shot the scene to get it right. When Toledo's Joe Dennehy launches into the same routine, the delight is tinged with awe that he even attempts it, let alone succeeds with nary a misstep. Or if there is a misstep, he covers it so completely that it is impossible to find.

Statile plays Don Lockwood and Dennehy is Cosmo Brown in the Croswell production. They are joined by Melissa Clairmont of Chelsea, Mich., in the role of Kathy Selden, and Sheri Silver of Jackson, Mich., as Lina Lamont.

Regulars at the Croswell have to be amazed by the depth of talent this theater routinely pulls in. The ensemble is more than 30 performers strong, yet there are only a few out-of-sync dance moves and the occasional muffed line, quickly and smoothly camouflaged by other cast members or easily ignored thanks to the abundance of good will the production generated.

Set in Hollywood around 1927, Singin' in the Rain follows the fortunes of silent screen stars Lockwood and Lamont as they face making the switch to “talkies.”

Lockwood's transition is relatively smooth, but his co-star, Lamont, has a voice as harsh as ground glass, and their new picture, The Dueling Cavalier, has test audiences in tears of laughter.

Cosmo, Lockwood's best friend and head of the studio's music department, comes up with the idea of turning the movie into a musical - The Dancing Cavalier - and dubbing Lamont's gravelly tones with those of Kathy Selden, a studio ingenue who has the voice of a lark and Lockwood's love.

But Lamont, who is determined to have Lockwood for real as well as on screen, has a few plans of her own.

It can't be easy being the villainess when everyone else on stage is sympathetic, but Silver plays Lamont with gusto, putting an equal amount of heart into her conniving as well as her truly awful accent.

Dennehy and Statile are delightful as the dancing buddies, and, with the addition of Clairmont, bring down the house as they dance all over the furniture in the “Good Morning” number.

“Singin' in the Rain” is scheduled at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday through July 1 in the Croswell Opera House, 129 East Maumee St., Adrian. Tickets are $20 for general admission, $18 for seniors and students. Information: 517-264-show.

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