Curtains: Singin' in the Rain at Mesa's Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre

It's not an inherently bad thing to have a comfort zone. If every stimulus you took in, every day, were a novel and fascinating first-time experience, you'd probably keel over from exhaustion before lunch. But I feel for the artists who, originally, had to create a stage show just exactly like everyone's favorite movie musical, Singin' in the Rain, and, now, have to put it on for Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre audiences who want to be extremely comfortable with it. (The venue's scampi and sundae bar are also comforting, but in a good way.)

I didn't think it possible that the original 1952 filmed version could prevail as a triumph of realism and clearly motivated musical numbers, but, um, it does. Unfunny one- and two-person scenes of exposition and setup are all over the stage, and sometimes they aren't even covering massive scene changes that you'd think would be taking place behind the curtain. This is a terrible, terrible script.

Although all three leads in Broadway Palm's current staging are genuine tap-dancing actors with adequate pipes (the traditional triple threat) and engaging smiles, even they seem kind of lost in this production, kind of as though they suddenly found themselves in "Plato's Stepchildren," that Star Trek episode in which the aliens forced Spock to smile and Uhura and Nurse Chapel to make out with the guys in little classical Grecian outfits for their (the aliens') sick cerebral amusement.

Yeah, that one.

Overall, the live orchestra and all the dancers and vocalists do a swell job, so if you're a fan of the musical theater, I think it's very possible to repress your desire for anything to make sense and enjoy the show. But a few awkward elements are hard to overlook, regardless.

One is the unfortunate choice to put very similar costumes and hairstyles on star Megan Wean and the other petite brunette cast members who are in the chorus. Wean is a lovely woman, but most of us have never seen her before and we can't pick her out of the crowd. It's like watching some war movie full of unknown actors who're all sporting crewcuts and uniforms.

Then there's the voice of Katie Rochon as Lina Lamont, the silent-film star who's supposed to sound so terrible that she can't transition to talkies without help. Not only does Rochon sound too good, her put-on accent is wildly inconsistent and unidentifiable.

Another disappointment is those crazy cinema-inspired dance numbers. It's definitely more important than anything for the performers not to hurt themselves, but when actors are obviously skittish about tumbling into laundry baskets or doing the famous sofa-tip in the "Good Mornin'" number, something is just not right at Monumental Studios.

Singin' in the Rain runs through Saturday, April 11, at Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre, 5247 East Brown Road in Mesa. Tickets are $22 (for children 12 and younger) to $54 and include dinner, dessert, and non-alcoholic beverages. A limited number of $28 non-dining tickets are also available. Order here or call 490-325-6700.

On the evening of Saturday, April 4, Debbie Reynolds is scheduled to appear at a fundraising gala with the cast. Proceeds go to the OneHeart Umbrella Campaign to help Valley residents and conjoined twins Emma and Taylor Bailey and other families in similar circumstances. (Beginning March 26, you can also use the preceding link to view an eBay auction of celebrity-autographed umbrellas.)

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Julie has written for the Night & Day events calendar section since 2005. As a student at Arizona State, she received the Glendon and Kathryn Swarthout Creative Writing Award and the Theatre Medallion of Merit.
Contact: Julie Peterson