Monday, July 11, 2016

SINGING IN THE RAIN - Sydney



"Singing in the Rain" ensemble
Photo: Jeff Busby 

Screenplay by Betty Comden and Adolph Green.
Songs by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed.
Directed by Jonathan Church.
Choreographed by Andrew Wright.
Designed by Simon Higlett.
Capitol Theatre – Sydney.

Opening night performance on 9th July 2016 reviewed by Bill Stephens

Is there anyone out there who still hasn’t seen the practically perfect Gene Kelly/Debbie Reynolds/Donald O’Connor film of “Singing in the Rain”?  Or maybe you saw David Atkin’s masterful stage reconstruction of the film with Todd McKenney, Rachel Beck and Wayne Scott Kermond/ Wayne Scott Kermond which toured Australia a few years ago.

Even if you’ve seen both, you won’t want to miss this fresh new take on the story of the trials and travails of the fictional Monumental Film Studios trying to cope with the introduction of sound to movies, skilfully directed by Jonathan Church, until last month, The Sydney Theatre Company’s newest Artistic Director.

"Singing in the Rain" - "Gotta Dance" ensemble
Photo: Jeff Busby 

Sheer delight from start to finish, Church’s production respects the original characters and storyline, but reinvigorates the show by imaginatively reworking of the musical numbers, with bright new costumes, inventive choreography and visual surprises which commence with the first notes of the overture, and continue unabated until the joyous finale featuring the whole cast splashing around in pouring rain.

Simon Higlett's clever design provides seamless scene transitions for the multitude of locations featured in the storyline, while Adrian Kirk’s bright and brassy band achieves exactly the right sound for the succession of lovely songs sprinkled throughout the show.

Grant Amirall as Don Lockwood
Photo: Hagen Hopkins

Replacing the much anticipated Anthony Garcia, who tore a calf muscle during the Melbourne season, Grant Almirall, direct from the International touring production of this show, brings a fine voice, an elegant dance style and loads of charm to the role of the silent movie leading man, Don Lockwood. He was well-matched by Jack Chambers as his reliable comedy side-kick, Cosmo Brown. Their vaudeville number, “Fit as a Fiddle” early in the show, is one of many highlights.

Besides his undoubted terpsichorean skills, Chambers also proves a dab hand at comedy winning his fair share of laughs with his manic version of “Make ‘em Laugh”.
  
Jack Chambers, (Cosmo Brown), Gretel Scarlett (Kathy Selden)  Grant Amirall (Don Lockwood)
Photo: Lindsay Kearney
Completing the trio, Gretel Scarlett is delightful in the role of the rising young star, Kathy Selden. Equally accomplished as a singer, dancer and actor, Scarlett is thoroughly convincing as a rising young starlet, who catches the eye of studio’s leading man, Don Lockwood, as well as that of the gruff studio head, R.F. Simpson, winningly portrayed by Mike Griffith. 

Rodney Dobson (Roscoe Dexter), Erika Heynatz (Lina Lamont)
Photo: Jeff  Busby

The role of Monumental Film Studio’s vocally challenged and demanding leading lady, Lina Lamont, is a gift for Erika Heynatz.  Heynatz looks drop dead gorgeous throughout, and despite many of her lines being unintelligible, she still manages to earn the lion’s share of the laughs, and also manages to discover some unexpected pathos in her desperate and futile attempts to fend off the inevitable demise of her career as the studio’s reigning queen of silent movies.

The numerous supporting roles are all well executed, particularly by Rodney Dobson as the put-upon film director, Roscoe Dexter, Jan Di Pietro, as the voice coach for the “Moses Supposes” number, and Jillian Green who stepped in at short notice to take over from an indisposed Robyn Arthur, as the gossip columnist, Dora Bailey. Thoroughly deserving special mention is the talented ensemble who perform the meticulously drilled production numbers with such affecting exuberance, that it’s impossible not to be blown away by them.


"Singing in the Rain" ensemble
Photo: Jeff Busby

Then of course, there’s the rain. There’s something particularly magical about the sight of a real live rain storm on the stage, and in this show it happens, not once, but twice. Firstly, when Grant Almirall channels Gene Kelly to conjure up one of the most magical moments in cinema history, singing from a lamppost in pouring rain, then happily jumping into puddles and splashing water out into the audience, (don’t worry, the management thoughtfully provides raincoats  for the first three rows of audience). The second, when the whole cast get into the fun for the finale.

Superbly mounted, directed and performed, this production of “Singing in the Rain” is musical theatre at its best. Do yourself a favour and try not to miss it.

"Singing in the Rain" ensemble
Photo: Jeff Busby
This review also appears in Australian Arts Review.  www. artsreview.com.au  



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