Pittsburgh CLO stages another winner in ‘Man of La Mancha’

(Photo by Matt Polk) Ron Raines as Don Quixote and Greg Hildreth as Sancho in Civic Light Opera's production of "Man of La Mancha."

(Photo by Matt Polk)
Ron Raines as Don Quixote and Greg Hildreth as Sancho in Civic Light Opera’s production of “Man of La Mancha.”

By Carol Waterloo Frazier

   Have you ever been accused of being an idealistic dreamer, someone who looks at the world through rose-colored glasses?
   That’s how Don Quixote views life and everything around him.
   His story — actually the story of Cervantes as told through the fictitious Don Quixote — is brilliantly told in Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera’s production of “Man of La Mancha.”
   Every once in a while you see a show that stands out as one of the best. This is one of those rare shows.
   Why? The cast is phenomenal, led by Ron Raines as Cervantes/Don Quixote. Explaining his story to others awaiting the Inquisition, he slowly and convincingly draws the audience into the tale. As he transforms from poet to idealist — literally on stage by altering his attire and adding a beard — the actor makes it easy to want to see the good in everyone and everything. While he is a powerful actor, he is a vocal dynamo doing an amazing job with “Man of La Mancha (I, Don Quixote)” and the powerful “The Quest (The Impossible Dream).”
   As strong as Raines is dramatically, Greg Hildreth is great as Cervantes’ side kick Sancho Panza. His endless stream proverbs coupled with his innocent charm provides just the right amount of humor at the right time. The naivete shines bright on the light-hearted “I Really Like Him” where his agapial devotion to Cervantes is very clear.
   Portraying a character like Aldonza/Dulcinea can be emotionally challenging but Jackie Burns rose to the ocassion — and then some. It’s exciting to watch her go from a sense of hopelessness and no self worth to seeing herself the way Quixote does — a woman of beauty and virtue. After his touching “Dulcinea” her unbelief that someone could feel that way about her she wonders “What Does He Want of Me.” Her dynamic performance will not soon be forgotten.
   Jeffrey Howell does a nice job in two very diverse roles — the governor and the innkeeper. As the governor, he’s rather harsh and forceful. Change scenes to the inn and he portrays a much more lighthearted character. He’s fun when dubbing Quixote as the “Knight of Woeful Countenance.”
   Others turning in good performances are Gavin Pamer as the Padre, whose crisp, clear vocals are a joy to listen to; Michael Misko as the Barber; and although his stage-time is limited, Tim Hartman creates a daunting presence as the Captain of the Inquisition.
   The costumes are wonderful — including the two “horses.” The set is sparse but Cervantes uses the world as his stage, which allows the focus to be on the uber-talented cast.

CLO executive producer Van Kaplan is to be commended for presenting one of the best shows done on the Benedum Stage.

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The holidays wouldn’t be the same without another terrific Pittsburgh CLO production of ‘A Musical Christmas Carol’

Jeffrey Howell, Matei Zivanov and Tom Atkins star in Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera's production of "A Musical Christmas Carol."  The show continues weekends through Dec. 21 at Pittsburgh's Byham Theater. (Photo by Matt Polk)

Jeffrey Howell, Matei Zivanov and Tom Atkins star in Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera’s production of “A Musical Christmas Carol.” The show continues weekends through Dec. 21 at Pittsburgh’s Byham Theater. (Photo by Matt Polk)

By CAROL WATERLOO FRAZIER

    When December rolls around, musical theater fans know it’s time for a Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera tradition — “A Musical Christmas Carol.”

    This timeless Charles Dickens story of redemption takes theater-goers on a whirlwind tour of the past and future of the bah humbug himself, Ebenezer Scrooge. But the story takes place in the present (well, the present for Dickens when the story was first published in 1843.

    The show continues weekends through Dec. 21 at the Byham Theater in Pittsburgh.

    Since 1992, “Christmas Carol” has become a holiday tradition for folks of all ages. Whether you’ve seen it a few times or have never missed a year, the show never loses its appeal. Maybe it’s because main cast members have been involved since the beginning (with a missed season here and there). Or maybe the message of hope keeps people coming back. Or it could be because the CLO production remains amazingly fresh and new every year.

    The main characters are the same “friends” fans of the show have come to associate with their various rolls. Tom Atkins returns for his seventh year as Scrooge, the miserly accountant whose life revolves around numbers instead of people. Through a series of visits by three spirits and the ghost of his former partner, he begins to have regrets about things he’s done — and in some cases, not done.

    Atkins does a convincing job taking his character on the bumpy road to redemption. He delivers one-liners with just the right blend of wit and sarcasm and his rebirth results in a child-like giddiness on Christmas morning.

    The journey begins when Scrooge encounters the ghost of his dead partner, Jacob Marley. Daniel Krell creates an eerie walking-dead character that’s forced to wear the chains he forged in life, link by link, as he wonders the earth. He warns his partner of the pending visits by the spirits — the Ghost of Christmas Past (Amanda Serra), the Ghost of Christmas Present (Tim Hartman) and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (Patrick Cannon). As the young Marley, Krell depicts him as an all-business, cold-hearted person who is more concerned with the bottom line than people.

    Most performers have multiple roles, including Hartman who steals the show as the happy-go-lucky Mr. Fezziwig. He gives the show its comic relief while Fezziwig and his wife, played to the hilt by Terry Wickline (she shines in this role but is even more comical as Scrooge’s housekeeper Mrs. Dilber). Their on-screen chemistry is wonderful. They both show a glimpse of their more dramatic side when they are forced out of their home because of foreclosure — by Marley and Scrooge.

    Cannon’s main role is that of Younge Scrooge. Making his “Christmas Carol” debut, he does a good job transitioning from the young and in love (Erika Strasburg does a nice job as his fiancée Belle) apprentice to the ruthless, cold-hearted accountant. His character runs a gamut of emotions and he does a good job in bringing the audience with him on the journey.

    Jeffrey Howell reprises his role of Bob Cratchit, who works for Scrooge and copes with his miserly ways in a gracious almost pleasant way. He’s convincing when telling his family never to forget Tiny Tim in an emotional plea. It’s a scene guaranteed to result in you shedding a tear or two.

    Tiny Tim, the youngest of the Cratchit children who is crippled and must walk with a cane, is played by first-grader Matei Zivanov. Seemingly unaffected by the audience, he turns in a nice performance and does a good job when singing grace (“Away in A Manger”) before the family delves into “the veritable feast.”

    Others turning in notable performances are Justin Fortunato as Scrooge’s nephew Fred, who won’t give up trying to pour out a little Christmas cheer on his crotchety uncle, and Lisa Ann Goldsmith as Mrs. Cratchit, who shines in an emotional scene after Tim’s death (as foreseen through one of the spirits).

    If you have some free time during the next two weekends, CLO’s “A Musical Christmas Carol” is well worth the trip into Pittsburgh. Not only will you enjoy a wonderful show but you’ll be making memories that will last a lifetime.

   For more information or for tickets, call 412-456-6666.

Laugh your way through ‘Dixie’s Tupperware Party’ at Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera Cabaret

"Dixie's Tupperware Party" is at the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera Cabaret through Oct. 12.

“Dixie’s Tupperware Party” is at the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera Cabaret through Oct. 12.

By CAROL WATERLOO FRAZIER

     If you’re in need of 90 minutes of nonstop laughing, you might want to consider attending a Tupperware party.
     But not any gathering selling the plastic containers — “Dixie’s Tupperware Party.”
     Not your typical selling event, this one is definitely for adults only. Dixie Longate has become the country’s leading seller of the plastic “crap,” as she lovingly describes it, thanks to her over-the-top sales pitch and zanny, fast-talking wisecracks.
     There are a lot of unique things about the show, which is back at Pittsburgh’s Civic Light Opera Cabaret where it played two years ago, this time for a six-week run that wraps up Oct. 12.
     One thing that makes this a one-of-a-kind theater experience unique is that it’s an actual Tupperware party. Yes, she’s selling her wares that can be ordered after the intermission-free show. Each guest receives a catalog and order form so those must-have items can be purchased.
     And don’t worry. Part of Dixie’s schtick is talking fast and repeating certain phrases —almost auctioneer-like — and that includes letting folks know the catalog number for the various items she shows.
     Schmoozing her guests, Dixie walks around and greets each person before the show and gives them a peppermint Lifesaver from her favorite plastic Tupperware bowl. The bowl, it should be noted, that launched her career thanks to her parole officer.
     The show is filled with sexual innuendo and can be raunchy at times, but it’s not mean-spirited. There’s definitely some instances where people are surprised at what she says, but you can’t help but laugh because the shock factor is what makes it funny.
     There is lots of audience participation — four people are lucky enough to sit on two couches on the stage during the “party.” After all, Tupperware parties generally take place in a living room so that intimacy is recreated as the rest of the party guests are drawn in to the zaniness. At a recent show, one male audience member was singled out early on and was the focus of her monologue on numerous occasions and he even got to demonstrate one of the products.
     And what would a selling party be without games and give-aways? Well, not to worry. Dixie incorporates both. As guests arrive, they are given a name tag with a number. At raffle time, she pulls out a number and the lucky guest gets to join her on stage and receive a gift for their willingness to be part of the craziness.
     But despite all the fun and off-color humor, there are moments of learning and encouragement. Dixie presents the history of Tupperware and her mentor, Brownie Wise, who created the idea of selling the product in homes.
      She also encourages women to not buy into the naysayers who say they can’t do something but set a goal and strive to achieve it, telling them they matter.
     If you’re looking for a fun way to transition from summer to fall, “Dixie’s Tupperware Party” just might be the answer.
     And one more nuance about the show. Dixie is brilliantly portrayed by actor Kris Andersson.

Dixie Longate hosts ‘Tupperware Party’ at Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera Caberet

Dixie Longate brings her one-person show, "Dixie's Tupperware Party," to the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera Cabaret through Oct. 12.

Dixie Longate brings her one-person show, “Dixie’s Tupperware Party,” to the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera Cabaret through Oct. 12.

By CAROL WATERLOO FRAZIER

     Thirteen years ago, Dixie Longate started selling Tupperware — on the suggestion of her parole officer.
     Beginning on Sept. 4, she’ll be bringing her one-person show to the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera Cabaret stage.
     “Dixie’s Tupperware Party” is just that — a get-together to “sell” the plasticware while imparting some advice about life.
     “I had been doing Tupperware parties for years and someone said I should put what I do into a show,” Longate said.
     The rest, as they say, is history. The show, written by Kris Andersson, debuted at the 2004 New York International Fringe Festival. Andersson teamed with playwright Elizabeth Meriwether and director Alex Timbers to create the Off Broadway production in 2007 that was unveiled at Ars Nova. The show received a 2007-08 Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding Solo Performance.
     After an eight-week run in Los Angeles, Longate is bringing her show back to the Cabaret.
     “I was here a couple of years ago and I’m honored to be asked to come back for six weeks,” she said. “The response has been so great that four extra shows.”
     The show, in it’s seventh year of touring, continues through Oct. 12, with evening performances added the last four Sundays of the run.
     “This is mind-blowing to me,” she said. “Everyone has been so neighborly to me. It’s really fun and exciting. I’d never done anything like this before. It’s become this thing that just took off.”
     Selling Tupperware was not something she wanted to do but she needed a job. “I had just gotten out of prison and my parole officer said I had to get a job if I wanted to get my kids back. She suggested I do Tupperware. I didn’t even know it still existed. When I did my first party, the hostess put out drinks and I thought it was pretty nice that I could drink on the job,” she chuckled.
    Describing the 90-minute show, Longate said it’s like being at a Tupperware party. “There are games and prizes, but there’s a lot of heart-warming stories, too. I talk about the lady who started the company to bring women back into the kitchen after Rosie the Rivitter. Through her efforts, a whole group of women were back working and making their own money once again.”
     Although the show very light-hearted, she said the show is an “empowerment story but you will have fun and be giggling up a storm.”
     Longate said there is plenty of audience participation, including a couch on stage where a few lucky theater-goers can sit during the show. After all, what’s a Tupperware party without women relaxing in the living room while listening to the what all the plastic items can do?
     “This is an outrageously funny show,” she said. “Every performance is different because there’s so much interaction with the audience and you never know what will happen.”
     Some of those expected incidents include a woman going in to labor, someone fainting, and a fire drill opening night in L.A.
     “There’s always something different that happens,” Longate said. “When you get audience members to do the games and raffles or demonstrations you never know will happen. You can get someone who is a little shy or someone who is outrageous, but it’s always a good time.”
     Reflecting on the show’s success, the Tupperware saleperson-turned-actress said, “We’re having a good time with this. And it’s not just for women — men love it, too. They may think they won’t like it when they come in, but they end up giggling their butts off. It’s really a lot of fun.”

Terrific revival of ‘Evita’ continues at Pittsburgh’s Benedum Center through Sunday, July 13

Caroline Bowman is radiant as Eva Peron in "Evita," continuing at Pittsburgh's Benedum Center through Sunday, July 13. (Photo by Richard Termine)

Caroline Bowman is radiant as Eva Peron in “Evita,” continuing at Pittsburgh’s Benedum Center through Sunday, July 13. (Photo by Richard Termine)

By Carol Waterloo Frazier

The story of Maria Eva Duarte de Peron is a rags to riches story of a woman who appealed to the masses and died as hero to the people of Argentina.

“Evita” is based the story of Argentina’s First Lady, who was born into a poor family in Los Toldos and moved to Buenos Aires in the 1930s to pursue her dream of becoming an actress. Thanks to her popularity as a radio star and actress, she met Juan Peron. They married in 1945 and the following year he was elected as Argentina’s president.

In her new role, she fought for women’s suffrage and to improve the lives of the poor. But while she had her throng of supporters, the legendary political figure had her share of naysayers.

The national tour of the Tim Rice/Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Tony Award-winning musical “Evita” brilliantly tells this iconic woman’s story. The first new Broadway production of the show that debuted on Broadway in 1979, this version is directed by Tony and Olivier Award-winner Michael Grandage and choreographed by Tony Award-winner Rob Ashford — and they do a marvelous job digging into the character’s lives to tell their story.

The show continues through Sunday at Pittsburgh’s Benedum Center.

The spotlight is on Caroline Bowman as Eva (Desi Oakley plays Eva at the Saturday matinee and Sunday evening performances) and she shines. She draws the audience into her iconic rise to influence in Argentinian politics and does so showing not only Eva’s strengths but also her weaknesses.

Bowman does a stellar job on the show’s most famous song, “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” and on the reprise as her health is ebbing away. She does a nice job showing in a gradual way the impact of the illness that would prove too much for her to beat, taking her life at age 33.

Her scenes with Sean MacLaughlin as Juan Peron are good. From “I’d Be Surprisingly Good for You” to the poignant “Dice Are Rolling” when she collapses in her husband’s arms. He is believable as the country’s leader and in his dealings with his officers.

Josh Young turns in a remarkable performance as Che, who tells the story of Eva through his experience as a worker in Argentina. His cynicism comes through loud and clear as the show opens with “Requieum” as the country mourns the First Lady’s death. His vocal talents are evident throughout the production including “Oh, What A Circus” and “And the Money Kept Rolling In.” Representing the working class, the angst many were beginning to feel comes through on “Waltz for Eva and Che.” Young injects just the right amount of subtle yet to-the-point sarcastic humor to help bring a tad bit of levity to a drama-filled show.

Christopher Johnstone as Magaldi does a wonderful job with “On This Night of a Thousand Stars” and Krystina Alabado turns in a strong albeit brief performance as Peron’s mistress, whose uncertainty for the future is felt is “Another Suitcase in Another Hall.”

The sets and costumes draw the audience into the lives of the Peron’s. The dancing is sharp and high-energy, especially on “Buenos Aires.”

This production of “Evita” delves more into the lives of Eva and Che, giving them more emotion and offering a glimpse into how they evolved into the people they were in 1952 — and Bowman and Young do that beautifully. This is a show worth seeing and one that just might prompt some further reading into the life of Eva “Evita” Peron.

‘Footloose’ is the latest winning production from Pittsburgh CLO

Ariel (Kristen Martin) and Ren (Manuel Stark) cut loose in the Pittsburgh CLO production of "Footloose." The show continues through Sunday, June 29, at  The Benedum Center, 803 Liberty Ave. in Pittsburgh's Cultural District. Call 412-456-6200 or visit www.trustarts.org for more information.

Ariel (Kristen Martin) and Ren (Manuel Stark) cut loose in the Pittsburgh CLO production of “Footloose.” The show continues through Sunday, June 29, at The Benedum Center, 803 Liberty Ave. in Pittsburgh’s Cultural District. Call 412-456-6200 or visit http://www.trustarts.org for more information.

By CAROL WATERLOO FRAZIER

For those old enough to remember the 1980s, chances are you were among those caught up in the frenzy of “Footloose.”

The 1984 film starring Kevin Bacon, Lori Singer and John Lithgow comes to life on the Benedum Center stage as the third show in the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera season. The show continues through June 29.

The story is simple — dancing and other fun stuff was deemed illegal by a small-town council. That doesn’t sit well with Chicago transplant Ren McCormick who, along with his new friends, set out to change the minds of the town’s leaders. In the process, he falls for Ariel whose pastor father is the driving force behind the ban. After council rejects his attempts to overturn the dancing ban, Ren has a heart-to-heart with Rev. Moore who does some soul-searching and reveals his discovery to his congregation.

Movie purists will see some differences from the original film, but the musical shouldn’t disappoint. PCLO executive producer Van Kaplan produced the show and does an outstanding job with a standout cast that makes you want to “kick off the Sunday shoes” and, well, cut footloose.

Manuel Stark and Kristen Martin are wonderful as Ren and Ariel. Whether alone or together, each brings a high-energy performance to a receptive audience. They are great together on “Almost Paradise.”

A newcomer to PCLO, Stark has a wide vocal range and his agility is evident with his dancing skills. Whether he’s expressing his need to dance in “I Can’t Stand Still” or rallying his classmates in “I’m Free” he definitely knows how to cut footloose.

Martin is amazing as the preacher’s kid tired of the oppression at home and in town. Her rebellion shines through on “The Girl Gets Around” with biker boyfriend Chuck (played by Brandon Espinoza). She’s good vocally but when it’s dance time she shines — and really seems to have a good time.

Rev. Moore is played by Patrick Cassidy, who does a good job convincing Moore’s congregation — and himself — that what he’s doing is the right thing. When he’s forced to let go of the past and seek forgiveness (the reprise of “Heaven Help Me” and “Can You Find It In Your Heart?”). A moving scene involves Cassidy and and Stark.

Three-time Tony nominee and PCLO veteran Dee Hoty portrays Vi, the pastor’s wife who struggles to keep quiet while she watches the chasm widen between her husband and their daughter. “Learning To Be Silent” (with Martin and Sally Wilfert as Ethel, Ren’s mother) and “Can You Find It In Your Heart” are very nice.

Alex Fine as Wendy Jo, Amy Hillner Larsen as Urleen and Jessie Hooker as Rusty are Ariel’s best friends and do a great job with Martin on “Holding Out For A Hero.” The threesome do a nice, almost eerie job with “Somebody’s Eyes.”

Hooker and Greg Kamp as Willard are fun together. “Let’s Hear It For the Boy” is good. Kamp turns in a good performance as the innocent high schooler who lives according to what “Mama Says.”

“Footloose’ ends how it starts — on a high note with the show’s namesake tune. It’s a pretty good indication the show was a hit when folks are humming and singing as they leave the theater.

The high-energy production offers amazing dancing, strong vocals and good acting. If you’re a little stressed or down, venture to the Benedum in the next few days and chances are you’ll “lose your blues” quickly.

Pittsburgh CLO’s delightful ‘Legally Blonde — The Musical’ more than just a girly show

Kathleen Elizabeth Monteleone (Elle) and Matthew Scott (Emmett) star in the Pittsburgh CLO's delightful production of "Legally Blonde — The Musical."

Kathleen Elizabeth Monteleone (Elle) and Matthew Scott (Emmett) star in the Pittsburgh CLO’s delightful production of “Legally Blonde — The Musical.”

By CAROL WATERLOO FRAZIER

Ever find yourself wanting something for the wrong reason — and discovering something about yourself along the way?

That’s the scenario that unfolds on the Benedum Center stage with the second show in the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera season, “Legally Blonde — The Musical.” The show continues through June 22.

The cast — many of whom are in or are recent college graduates, which is fitting considering the show centers around that age group — is wonderful. Even the two canine stars, Chico and Nellie, bark right on cue.

Not familiar with the story? It’s pretty simple — boy breaks up with girl and she wants to prove that he made a huge mistake. In the process she learns some things about herself and finds real love.

Reprising her national tour role, Kathleen Elizabeth Monteleone turns in a stellar performance as Elle Woods. She quickly draws the audience into her plight, taking them on her evolving journey that starts as a fun-loving college senior to one of four select first-year Harvard law students on the fast tract to a promising career. Monteleone is an amazing performer and vocally is a powerhouse on tunes like “So Much Better.”

Her scenes with Matthew Scott have spark that appears genuine. The Carnegie Mellon University grad does a wonderful job as third-year law student Emmett Forrest who encourages Elle to get a “Chip on My Shoulder” so she is driven to excell. They take center stage on his metamorphic change from elbow-patched corduroy jacket to dark-suited attorney in “Take It Like A Man.” What’s a love story without a touching scene, which they beautifully create in “Legally Blonde.”

Returning to the PCLO stage, Mamie Parris is outstanding as hairstylist Paulette who finally finds love (UPS man Kyle isn’t on stage much but when he is Michael Milton steals the scene). She’s a vocal dynamo on “Ireland” (the Riverdance-like segment later in the show is great!).

PCLO Academy alumni Courtney Markowitz is great as the uppity, stuffy Vivienne who admits she was wrong for judging the blonde law student. Markowitz and Jeff McLean as Warner Huntingdon III (a role he played in the first National Tour of the musical) make a great Ivy League couple; he’s surprised to discover his former girlfriend, Elle, is in his law classes and still has a burning ember for her. His self-centeredness shines clearly on “Serious” and his expressions when he’s taken down a few notches are great.

Another PCLO veteran, Ken Land is brilliant as the tough-as-nails Professor Callahan. “Blood in the Water” sets the stage for what he expects of his students and he wonderfully conceals what his underlying plan is for Elle, which backfires and adds to her drive leading to her self-discovery.

Pittsburgh native Lara Hayhurst as Margot, PCLO veteran Isabelle McCalla as Pilar and making her PCLO debut Brinie Wallace as Serena are great as Elle’s ever-supportive friends. They (and the ensemble) are great in the production number “What You Want” (Pittsburgh’s own Jeffrey Howell as Winthrop is fun as the overwhelmed law school admissions person shocked by Elle’s unique personal essay).

This is a great show that also happens to have a message, actually a couple messages that just might make theater-goers think about what drives them. Although the vast majority of audience members were women of all ages, the musical is more than a girly show. It’s something that anyone can find something or someone to relate to, which makes for an outstanding story. If you have a couple hours with nothing to do the next several days, make your way to the Benedum Center for a very enjoyable production.

Pittsburgh CLO does justice to the classic Gene Kelly musical ‘Singin’ in the Rain’

Cary Tedder (Cosmo Brown), Mary Michael Patterson (Kathy Selden) and David Elder (Don Lockwood) wish audiences a "Good Morning" in "Singin' in the Rain." (Photo by Mark Maack/Squid Ink Creative)

Cary Tedder (Cosmo Brown), Mary Michael Patterson (Kathy Selden) and David Elder (Don Lockwood) wish audiences a “Good Mornin'” in “Singin’ in the Rain.” (Photos by Mark Maack/Squid Ink Creative)

By CAROL WATERLOO FRAZIER

Gene Kelly is not only a legend in the world of dance, he is a Pittsburgh native. His legacy continues each year when high schools vie for a Gene Kelly Award recognizing excellence in musicals.

It’s only fitting that Pittsburgh’s Civic Light Opera opens its 68th season with the show synonymous with Gene Kelly — “Singin’ in the Rain,” the 1952 MGM film musical starring Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds and Jean Hagen.

David Elder dances through the raindrops while performing the showstopping title tune in "Singin' in the Rain." (Photo by Mark Maack/Squid Ink Creative)

David Elder dances through the raindrops while performing the showstopping title tune in “Singin’ in the Rain.”

For those familiar with the show, it’s takes place when silent films were becoming a thing of the past with the introduction of “talkies.” The two stars of the silent era are Don Lockwood and ditsy partner Lina Lamont. Kathy Snelden enters the scene as a young studio singer who captures Lockwood’s heart — much to the dismay of Lamont. Audiences are not very receptive to Lamont’s shrill voice so Snelden becomes her voice and saves the day.

Living up to the expectations of such a well-known show can be a challenge. CLO executive producer Van Kaplan and director/choreographer Linda Goodrich were up to that challenge and met or exceeded what theater-goers were expecting — a show filled with top-notch singing, dancing and acting.

Reprising the iconic roles are David Elder as Don Lockwood, Cary Tedder as Cosmo Brown, Ashley Spencer as Lina Lamont and Mary Michael Patterson as Kathy Selden.

Elder is suburb as Lockwood. He effortlessly sings and dances his way through the show — and his acting is not too shabby, either. He does a stellar job on the show’s namesake dance number, “Singin’ in the Rain” — where the stage is drenched from the rain and Elder, soaking wet, dances and splashes his way through one of the most famous bits of choreography in musical theater history. There’s so much water that even the orchestra opens umbrellas to stay dry.

Last seen in CLO’s 2010 production of “Curtains,” Elder’s crooner-like voice is showcased on solo tunes like “You Stepped Out of A Dream” and is equally strong when teamed with Patterson and Tedder on the fun “Good Mornin’.” And yes, the threesome does tip the couch during the dance.

Patterson pulls off the starry-eyed young singer Snelden who’s hoping to make it big. Her character’s chance encounter with Lockwood paves the way for “You Are My Lucky Star.” She’s taking a break from playing Christine in “The Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway.

When it comes to landing a fun role, Tedder did just that with Cosmo, the piano-playing sidekick of Lockwood. Not everyone can pull off that character but he does so with ease. Starting with “Make ‘Em Laugh,” he has mastered the art of physical humor. He and Elder — who was last graced the CLO stage during the 2008 season — team up for “Moses Supposes” for a fun time as they good-naturedly mock the process of learning proper enunciation with the diction coach (played by Pittsburgh native James Stellos).

Perhaps one of the most vocally annoying characters in musical theater, Lina Lamont is amazingly played by Spencer. A veteran of the 2008 CLO season, she portrays the screetchy-voiced silent screen star who is not the brightest bulb in the chandelier. It’s nothing shy of amazing that she never wavers for even a word in that irritating voice, which she thinks is normal — and is adamant about in “What’s Wrong With Me?”

Pittsburgh native Jeffrey Howell adds to his list of CLO appearances as director Roscoe Dexter and Ken Land returns to the CLO stage as movie studio owner R.F. Simpson. Kristine Bendul makes her CLO debut as Olga, beautifully recreating the dance segment of “Tango” and the lengthy “Broadway Ballet” which also showcases Elder. Two CLO Academy members — Jacob Epstein as Young Cosmo and Mathew Fedorek as Young Don — do a nice do a nice little tap number in the opening scene.

Any fan of classic movies, especially classic musical films, won’t want to miss this production of “Singin’ In the Rain.” The show continues through Sunday, June 8, at the Benedum Center.