Makin’ a splash at Historic Iao Theater

‘Singin’ in the Rain’ is worthy ending to Dascoulias-era

Chris Kepler dances through puddles in the title song sequence during the Maui OnStage production of “Singin’ in the Rain.” Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 3 p.m. Sundays through Aug. 5 at the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku. Tickets range from $20 to $40. For information or to purchase tickets, call 242-6969 or visit www.mauionstage.com. Jack Grace photo

STAGE REVIEW

Overflowing with accomplished special effects courtesy of set designer Caro Walker and lighting designer Amy Lord, Maui OnStage’s “Singin’ in the Rain” is making quite a splash at the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku.

The two-hour romantic musical comedy is faithful to the MGM film, and jam-packed with near non-stop singing and dancing by its talented cast, clever movie inserts by videographer Bob Brooks and 100 gallons of showering water.

Because “Rain” originated on the silver screen and not on a Broadway stage, it doesn’t feature the traditional larger-than-life opening number. In that sense, the libretto is a bit back-loaded.

After an expositionary scene establishing 1920s Hollywood, Chris Kepler, as silent film heartthrob Don Lockwood, narrates his vaudeville beginnings with lifelong boon companion Cosmo Brown (John Galvin).

In the amiable “Fit as a Fiddle,” we meet young Don played by Kepler’s real-life daughter Kiele Kepler, and young Cosmo played by Kanoa Goring. The youthful duo offers a glimpse of the cheerful dance numbers to come with endearing charm.

Accolades are fittingly deserved for costumers Vicki and Jessi Nelson in the opening 15 minutes of “Rain” alone, but their work further impresses throughout the show in what appears to be over 100 costumes.

“Rain” hits its stride and never looks back when Lia De Souza as Kathy Selden pops out of a cake to join a bevy of Coconut Grove beauties in the toe-tapping “All I Do is Dream of You.” De Souza shines throughout the production, particularly in “You Are My Lucky Star,” “You Were Meant for Me” and “Would You.”

Equally superb is the laugh-out-loud performance by Laura Cole as Lina Lamont. Cole beguiles the audience from the moment we hear Lamont’s braying, working-class accent and dim-witted observations, especially in the diction lesson scene opposite Lisa Paulson as Mrs. Dinsmore and on her solo song “What’s Wrong With Me.”

Kepler as Lockwood is charismatic when wooing Selden, exasperated when avoiding Lamont and delightful when clowning with Brown.

Though there are many show-stoppers in “Rain,” Kepler and Galvin’s “Moses” may be the most flawless and entertaining number of the entire production. Galvin’s joyous stage presence, polished footwork, strong vocals and comic ability debatably make him the hardest-working star of this show — inarguably so on the exhausting “Make ‘Em Laugh.”

The one-two punch of this stage adaptation is the terrifically fun “Good Morning” with De Souza, Galvin and Kepler, immediately followed by the flabbergasting number, “Singin’ in the Rain.”

Choreographer Erin Kowalick had the unenviable undertaking of recreating lengthy, demanding, beloved and celebrated dance numbers, and realizes the vision with winning results.

Although already well-known as a director and stage performer, Kepler will be forever known for his triumphant performance in the title musical number. Witnessing this five-minute scene is worth the price of admission alone, and is Maui OnStage’s greatest-ever technical achievement.

Departing director Alexis Dascoulias and musical director Steven Dascoulias have saved the best for last in their exclamation point contribution at the Historic Iao Theater.

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