Lina really isn’t so bad; she’s certainly not a villain.
Though not every story has a bad guy - someone you love to hate - those stories that do somehow seem more compelling, and sometimes more fun.
Lina Lamont isn’t exactly a bad guy. She’s just who she is, simple as that.
“There’s a song she sings by herself,” Addie Dean said. “It’s called ?What’s Wrong With Me?’”
Dean will make her debut as Lina Lamont when Central Community Theatre opens its summer musical Singin’ in the Rain on Thursday, Aug. 4, in the Manship Theatre.
And Lina’s stage song is nowhere to be found in the 1952 film Singin’ in the Rain that was adapted for the stage by Betty Cunden and Adolph Green in 1983. The duo used Nacio Herb Brown’s music and Arthur Reed’s lyrics for the show, which premiered on London’s West End. It opened on July 2, 1985, in Broadway’s George Gershwin Theatre and ran for 367 performances.
The stage version was produced three decades after the movie’s debut, which isn’t unusual. Broadway is constantly staging musicals that were seen first on movie screens.
Some of these stories didn’t start out as musicals. But Singin’ in the Rain, an all-time American classic at that, did.
This could pose a problem. Those familiar with the musical will expect certain things - the energetic tap dancing, Lina’s eardrum-stabbing voice and rain.
Baton Rouge Little Theater created rain from a mixture of water and milk in its 2009 production of the musical. This also was the mixture used in the film’s scene where actor Gene Kelly, well, sang in the rain.
But there will be no water and milk when Dillon Chustz opens his umbrella on the Manship Theater’s stage. He plays main character Don Lockwood.
“I knew the musical before we started rehearsal,” he said.
Not true for other members of the cast. Grant Clinkingbeard, who plays Don Lockwood’s sidekick Cosmo, had never seen the movie. Heck, he didn’t even know how to tap dance.
“We asked the Manship Theatre about rain, but they can’t allow that on their stage,” Karen Clinkingbeard said. “So, we’re going to use a lighting effect that looks like rain.”
She smiles, shrugs.
“But we did try,” she said.
Clinkingbeard is co-directing the show with Kim Sullivan and Dorothy Dean. Her daughter Claire Clinkingbeard started out as director but has moved to working with other technical aspects of the show.
Claire Clinkingbeard is a junior at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, majoring in theater performance.
“We wanted to give her experience in directing,” Karen Clinkingbeard said.
Besides, it was Claire Clinkingbeard who chose the musical as the community theater’s summer production.
“I looked at it and said, ?This is a big show,’” Claire Clinkingbeard said. “But then I said, ?We can do this.’ I love tap dancing.”
Which once again brings up Grant Clinkingbeard. He’s Claire’s brother and Karen’s son. Central Community Theatre could be called a family activity for the Clinkingbeards, because Karen Clinkingbeard’s husband, Byron Clinkingbeard, runs the music for rehearsals.
As for Grant Clinkingbeard, he was a football player at Central High School, and graduated from there in May. He’ll be entering Baylor University in the fall, but first he’ll play Cosmo. Cosmo, who jokes and goofs around. Cosmo, who tap dances.
“I told him that the part required tap dancing,” Karen Clinkingbeard said.
“And he learned it,” she added.
“I learned it out of necessity,” Grant Clinkingbeard said. “It was do or die.”
Well, it wasn’t really a matter of life or death, but it determine whether or not Grant Clinkingbeard won the part. And he did.
He’ll now star as one of the main characters next to Chustz as Don, Sarah Talbot as the ingénue Kathy Seldon and Dean as Lina Lamont.
Ah yes, Lina. She could be the story’s most infuriating character. She’s definitely the funniest.
Jean Hagen was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Lina in the film. And really, hers remains the defining interpretation.
Lina is the quintessential silent screen queen. Singin’ in the Rain is set in the Roaring ‘20s, and Don and Lina are the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie of the silent film era, or so Hollywood would have you think.
On screen, Don and Lina play lovers. Off screen, Don can hardly stand his shallow leading lady.
The story opens with Don and Lina attending the premiere of their film. One day, Don escapes overenthusiastic fans by jumping into a passing car driven by Kathy Selden, who, as a stage actress, has total disdain for Don’s film work.
“I specifically auditioned to play Kathy Selden,” Talbot said. “I think in a way, Kathy Selden is a lot like Sarah Talbot.”
Talbot is a sophomore at Syracuse University in New York majoring in musical theater.
“We’re not allowed to audition for any productions in our first year, so it was great to come back home and audition for this show,” Talbot said.
The musical brings up that sound was introduced to films by way of Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer. That’s where trouble begins, for the studio has decided to turn Don’s latest film, The Dueling Cavalier, into a talkie.
“We went to St. Francisville and filmed all the movie parts,” Karen Clinkingbeard said. “So, we’ll have actual silent films on the stage.”
“I’m a big Gene Kelly fan,” Chustz said. “He’s classy and romantic, and he obviously was a great dancer. I really wanted to play this part.”
Chustz will enter the University of Arts in Philadelphia in September, where he’ll major in musical arts. So, his transition from summer musical to college seems only natural.
Don, meanwhile, has no trouble with the transition from silent to talkie, but brash-voiced Lina does.
“I wanted to play Lina,” Dean said. “I love the movie, and I watched it and practiced it until I got the voice right.”
“And when she came in to the audition, she blew us away,” Karen Clinkingbeard said.
Dean will enter Southeastern Louisiana University in the fall, where she’ll major in nursing. But she’ll try to keep acting in plays in the meantime.
Right now, she’s Lina, the diva with the grating voice.
Oh, that voice. It won’t work in movies, much less a musical. But Don, Kathy and Cosmo come up with a scheme, one that possibly can work.
Well, except for Lina.
“What’s wrong with me?” she’ll sing later in the show.
She isn’t a villain, but she is a problem.
And Singin’ in the Rain wouldn’t be nearly as fun without her.
CAST: Dillon Chustz, Don Lockwood; Sarah Talbot, Kathy Seldon; Grant Clinkingbeard, Cosmo Brown; Addie Dean, Lina Lamont; Wesley Nance, R.F. Simpson; Joey King, Roscoe Dexter; Christine Rittell, Dora Bailey; Annie Dauzat, Zelda Zanders; Scott Hood, Rod; Landon Smith, Production Soloist; Jack McAdams, Sid Phillips; Parker Wilson, Young Don; Breanna Clark, Young Cosmo; Lydia Abadie, Phillip Abington, Hannah Allen, Mackenzie Byrd, Ali Bueche, Breanna Clark, Christen Cross, Adleigh Denham, Ashton Denham, Alexa Dietrich, Victoria Dixon, Annie Dauzat, Gabi Eaves, Ashley Estave, Casey Franz, Nicole Gardana, Katherine Germany, Katie Gilley, Alyson Guidry, Scott Hood, Lindsey Hooge, Emily Lansing, Jack McAdams, Jenna Pryor, Christine Rittell, Landon Smith, Hannah Speiss, Meghann Sullivan, Savannah Sullivan, Sarah Talbot, Parker Wilson, ensemble.