Rain falls on the Aurora Theatre stage as actor Justin Tanner tap dances through puddles, the pitter-patter of water droplets providing a fitting accompaniment for the song "Singin' in the Rain."
It's the Lawrenceville theater's recreation of the iconic scene made famous by actor Gene Kelly in the MGM movie musical of the same name and provides a spectacular opening for the Aurora's 2010-11 season.
"We always open the season with a big, classic musical and to celebrate our 15 anniversary season we wanted something big, epic, well known, something our audience would really take a shine to," said Anthony Rodriguez, the Aurora's producing artistic director.
"Singin' in the Rain" show follows Tanner's character, handsome leading man Don Lockwood, as the studio Monumental Pictures navigates Hollywood's transition from silent films to "talkies." With a leading lady better suited for silent films -- Lina Lamont's annoyingly high-pitched, squeaky voice and inattention to mic placement make for disaster -- Lockwood solicits the help of his friends, particularly one lovely aspiring actress with the voice of a songbird, to salvage the studio's latest project.
From a technical aspect, making it rain on the Lawrenceville theater stage wasn't difficult. Warm water is run from a faucet back stage into a PVC pipe filled with holes dead hung above the set. To accommodate the falling water, a steel frame 6 or more inches above the actual stage was constructed, where a long gap across the front of the frame allows the water to drain into a large barrel in the theater's basement.
"It adds a whole new element of life to (the show)," Tanner said. "It's such an iconic scene, I just feel really alive when I'm able to do that."
During intermission, which directly follows Tanner's song and rain dance, crew members clear the stage of excess moisture using mops and squeegees.
Technical difficulty -- or lack thereof -- aside, the scene is one Aurora patrons likely won't soon forget. But it's certainly not the totality of the show, which includes multiple tap dance numbers, the added element of actual film segments projected onto a large screen and memorable renditions of the songs "Fit as a Fiddle," "Make 'Em Laugh" and "Good Mornin'" performed by a stellar cast.
Actor Jeremy Wood's comical turn as Lockwood's right hand man Cosmo Brown and his rendition of "Make 'Em Laugh" is a show stealer, while Kathy Selden, played by Leslie Bellair making her Aurora debut, is fresh and frank as Lockwood's reluctant love interest with a voice well suited for the new technology of talking pictures.
The Aurora also heralds the debut of Broadway performer Pamela Gold on the Lawrenceville stage as squeaky-voiced silent film siren Lina Lamont. Gold has been seen on the Broadway stage opposite Matthew Broderick in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" and Sarah Jessica Parker in "Once Upon a Mattress."
"Singin' in the Rain" opens this weekend on the Aurora Theatre stage and will run through Sept. 5, the first show in a season that will include a stage adaptation of the classic tale "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," the theater's annual holiday extravaganza "Christmas Canteen," the southeastern premiere of the play "Sirens" and more.
"I believe a lot of choices we've made for the entire season sort of fit that epic quality ('Singin' in the Rain' has)," Rodriguez said. "We've picked a great variety of plays for the 15th anniversary season. We believe they're all stories that speak to our audience and that they'll enjoy very much."