Rain, full and steady, takes center stage at Eight O'Clock Theatre's current performance.
During the scene involving the title song, Singin' in the Rain, Jonathan Pouliot, who plays Don Lockwood, tosses his umbrella to and fro while kicking and tapping about love. He dashes through about 120 gallons of raindrops — a feat three months in the making.
An elaborate contraption built by theater crew members created the realistic scene of falling rain. It includes aluminum, plywood, fiberglass and industrial car-wash equipment.
Its making was a group effort, said C.J. Marshall, the show's technical director.
"Some theaters have actually damaged their stage doing Singin' in the Rain by bringing in the water,'' said Marshall, who received a bachelor's degree in stage management and theater from Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, Scotland. "So this is definitely one of our larger projects, and it took time making sure it's done right.''
Based on the original production, the 1952 movie that included iconic scenes with Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Connor and Cyd Charisse, Singin' in the Rain by Eight O'Clock Theatre will run through Nov. 15 at the Largo Cultural Center. It includes 26 cast members and is set in Hollywood during the 1920s.
"It's the most well-known musical in American history,'' said director Rand Smith. "You can't replicate the original, but what you can do is take their work and make it appealing to today's crowds. If you do it right, you see the audience at the end of the show singing when they leave. We want to do that, to bring the magic back.''
The story centers on dashing silent film star Don Lockwood, played by Pouliot, and his glamorous screen partner, Lina Lamont, played by Jessica Bishop.
The studio bosses require them to pretend to be romantically linked. The studio head is R.F. Simpson, played by Tom Morobito. He aims to change the pair's current silent screen drama into the studio's first talkie. Unfortunately, Lamont has a horribly shrill voice.
However, the star's ex-song-and-dance partner, Cosmo Brown, played by George Cahill, proposes to turn the film into a musical with Kathy Seldon, played by Katie DeHetre, dubbing her singing voice for Lamont.
The musical, with more than 24 songs, often has dancers tapping away in the smallest of spaces, said Amy Phillips, the show's choreographer. "We try to hold onto the integrity of the original show with the classic dances, but we move that perception onto our stage. We are adding different surfaces, like for the Singin' in the Rain scene, which is only 4 feet deep. That is a challenge,'' she said.
Eight O'Clock Theatre has dealt with complexities before. "When we did Beauty and the Beast, we had a castle move upstage, and it also had a scene in which the audience saw the beast float in the air and transform into the prince,'' remembered Betsy Byrd, the business manager for the group.
"And then there was Into the Woods, where we used pyrotechnics to make the witch disappear, and there was also Carousel in 2001, where we made a full dock structure with low-lying fog about 2 feet high."
When asked if he's surprised Eight O'Clock wanted to invest such time in the special effects for Singin' in the Rain, Marshall stressed a commitment to the best community theater possible.
"This is just what the people of Eight O'Clock Theatre love to do,'' he said. "The theater just believes in pushing the envelope as far as it can.''