Don Forston plays R.F. Simpson in "Singin' in the Rain" through Jan. 13 at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace.
‘SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN’
◆ Through Jan. 13
◆ Drury Lane Theatre,
100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace
◆ Tickets are $35-$46, or
$29-$43.75 for seniors
◆ (630) 530-0111;
Updated: February 5, 2013 6:09AM
The American Film Institute has long named “Singin’ in the Rain” from 1952 the top musical film of all time.
Perhaps no other stage or cinema musical combines so many extraordinary elements of dancing, singing, comedy and story.
Then there are the special effects that recreate the iconic rain scene, even on an indoor stage.
For that reason only the best of regional theaters can afford to do the show justice.
Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace is one of those and “Singin’ in the Rain” is being staged there through Jan. 13.
There were, of course, the three unforgettable film leads of Gene Kelly as Don Lockwood, Debbie Reynolds as Kathy Selden and Donald O’Connor as Cosmo Brown.
But also there was the uncommonly talented supporting cast the show required for the roles of Lina Lamont, R.F. Simpson, Roscoe Dexter, the Diction Coach and others.
Drury Lane director Bill Jenkins originally called on Sean Palmer (Marcus in television’s “Sex and the City”) to play Don Lockwood, the “singer” in the rain. After an injury, Palmer was replaced by Tony Yazbeck.
The show also features local veteran talents Jenny Guse as Kathy Selden and Matthew Crowle as Cosmo.
But to add depth to the cast, Jenkins has local favorites such as Don Forston, of Stickney, playing R.F. Simpson.
Forston gets occasional lead roles such as Santa opposite Hollis Resnik in 2011’s acclaimed “Another Night Before Christmas” at the Theatre at the Center in Munster, Ind.
But Forston has thrived in character roles, the type that even though he gets secondary billing he still has the audience recalling his performance.
“I’ve always said that it’s nice to have the lead role, but I take pride in playing other parts such as the judge, the sheriff or the studio head,” he said.
Such an attitude and talent have kept Forston busy on stage for 35 years since he moved from his native Milwaukee.
Without such versatility, many of Forston’s contemporary stage actors have virtually retired.
On film, R.F. Simpson was played by Millard Mitchell, one of the era’s most noted character actors (39 movies) until he died at age 50 in 1953.
In “Singin’ in the Rain,” R.F. Simpson is the fictional Monumental Studios head who in 1927 discovers that “talkies” are the wave of the future.
The talkies would reveal such silent film stars as Lina Lamont as being totally lacking in vocal talent.
In this show, much of the humor comes from her not recognizing how her screechy voice is so unsuited to the new technology.
“That’s what makes the story so believable,” Forston said. “This was an exciting time in the film industry. The talkies changed careers overnight.”
Joining Forston in the memorable character roles at Drury Lane are Melissa van der Schyff, making her area debut, as Lina Lamont; John Reeger as the Dialect Coach (“Moses Supposes”) and Cara Salerno as Lady in Green.
“Singin’ in the Rain” has such iconic dance and comedy routines that it helps to have more than one choreographer.
Assisting musical director Roberta Duchak (from the recent production of “Xanadu”) will be Amber Mak zeroing in on the rain dance.
Crowle choreographs his own steps for the highly intricate and hilarious “Make ’Em Laugh.”
Jeff Award-winning designer Kevin Depinet created the elaborate scenery for the famous rain segment.
The forecast is for a thunderstorm on stage and bright, sunny faces in the audience.
Don Snider is a local freelance writer.