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[whitespace] Let It Pour

The downpour outside matched the 'Singin' in the Rain' inside at American Musical Theater production

By Michael J. Vaughn

AMERICAN MUSICAL THEATER of San Jose is billing its 2000-2001 season as terribly innovative and risk-taking, and if you believe that I've got a cure for the common cold I'd like to sell you. AMT may be presenting four regional premieres, but the names--including The Three Musketeers, Victor/Victoria and Barry Manilow's Copacabana--are hardly what you would call unknown quantities. The opener, Singin' in the Rain, may be the best-known of all, and AMT's immaculate, dazzling production of this 1985 musical--itself an incredibly loyal approximation of the 1952 movie--leads one to wonder why AMT needs to be seen as daring when they do the old stuff so well.

If you aren't blown away by the sheer quantity and size of Michael Anania's sets (about 25, near as I can tell), you'll certainly be dazzled by AMT favorite Jamie Torcellini, who was pretty much born to play the Donald O'Connor role of goofball sidekick Cosmo Brown. His "Make 'Em Laugh" delivers more physical abuse than a football team, including a Tarzan-like rope swing into a mail cart and a dandy tumble through a breakaway brick wall. (Unlike O'Connor, of course, Torcellini has to do this bruising routine five or six nights a week.)

Torcellini has the unfortunate quality of revealing the flaws in his stagemates, and it was obvious from the start that Dirk Lumbard, playing Gene Kelly's movie-star persona Don Lockwood, lacked his partner's ease and pizazz. He also sang with an oddly covered Dudley Do-right tone, but did endow his dance numbers with nimble tapping and an elegant, long-limbed presence. He also lived up to the big challenge, the Scene of Scenes, performed beneath an impressive onstage downpour, inciting a near riot when he mimicked Kelly's memorable face-wash under the downspout.

Melodie Wolford adorned the Debbie Reynolds role of Kathy Selden with homegrown charm and a lovely soprano voice, while Rachel deBenedet went the opposite direction to steal the show (as well she should) as the horrifically unlistenable silent film star Lina Lamont. It was also pretty nifty the way AMT made it rain outside, as well. Now that's power.

Singin' in the Rain, produced by American Musical Theater of San Jose, plays Nov. 2-3 at 8pm, Nov. 4 at 2 and 8pm, Nov. 5 at 2 and 7pm, Nov. 8 at 2 and 8pm, Nov. 9-10 at 8pm, Nov. 11 at 2 and 8pm and Nov. 12 at 2pm at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts, 255 Almaden Blvd., San Jose. Tickets are $40-$60. (888/455-SHOW or www.amtsj.org)

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From the November 2-8, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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