Capsule Reviews

Our critics weigh in on local theater

Singin' in the Rain What's the point of turning an already world-famous musical, whose cast cannot be improved upon whatsoever, into another musical that slavishly re-creates the original, down to costumes, iconographic choreography and line readings? Why bother? This secondhand movie knock-off from 1985, which traveled to Houston a decade ago, is serviceable and sometimes even enjoyable, but it definitely doesn't improve upon the original in any way. The story concerns a famous silent-movie couple, Don Lockwood (Michael Gruber) and Lina Lamont (Rachel DeBenedet), whose careers are threatened with the advent of the "talkie." They decide to film one, but Lina can't sing, so producers dub in the voice of Kathy (Danette Holden). A love triangle ensues: Lina falls for Don for real, but he falls for Kathy. If anything, this pale duplication lessens the grand film. It's been flatlined. The "Singin' in the Rain" song garners applause not because of its athletic, yet stylish, dancing, but because the number features actual rain falling on the stage. The dancing takes second place. As movie star Don Lockwood, Gruber is so busy channeling Gene Kelly, there's no room left for his own style. He taps like a trouper, though, and sings with a lovely virility. As Kathy, Holden seems a trifle too mature for an ingenue, and there's no evidence of a spark between her and Gruber's Don -- it's romance on autopilot. But DeBenedet has a field day shrieking like a banshee as the spoiled, untalented star Lina Lamont. Her "What's Wrong with Me" striptease is among the show's distinctive moments. Triple-threat Randy Rogel (veteran performer, Emmy-winning writer and West Point graduate) makes an exceptional second banana in the role of Lockwood's best buddy, Cosmo. He starts out in full gallop for the vaudeville-like "Fit as a Fiddle," soars during his low-comedy solo "Make 'Em Laugh" and anchors the trio for the furniture-climbing "Good Mornin'"; Rogel just gets better as the musical proceeds. Too bad the show doesn't. Through December 19 at the Hobby Center for Performing Arts, 800 Bagby, 713-558-8887.

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