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Review - Singin’ in the Rain: so much to love

September 28, 2016

Right:  Rohan Browne  creates a splash. Photo by Darren Thomas

 

Singin’ in the Rain

The Stage Entertainment and Chichester Festival Theatre production

Presented by Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, David Atkins Enterprises, Michael Cassel Group and TEG DAINTY

Songs by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed

Directed by Jonathan Church

Lyric Theatre

Queensland Performing Arts Centre

 

Season 22 September - 30 October 2016. Bookings: qpac.com.au or 136 246

 

I just loved Singin’ in the Rain. There is so much to love about this musical – the fabulous music, the sensational choreography, and the great songs which the talented cast brought to life. It has to be one of the best I have seen. All the cast and crew, especially the Director, Jonathan Church, Musical Director, Adrian Kirk, and Choreographer, Andrew Wright, have produced a marvellous tribute to the MGM original. Gene Kelly would be proud.

he action is set in the year 1927 at the time silent movies were beginning to fade and talkie movies becoming the rage. Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont are the biggest names in the silent movie business and are rumoured to be lovers off screen as well as on.

Lina Lamont unfortunately believes all the Hollywood publicity, however Don wants nothing to do with her off screen. He bumps into Kathy Selden on his way from the theatre where his and Lina’s new movie, The Royal Rascal, has been a sensational hit, to the after screen party.

Kathy is singularly unimpressed with Don, as he uses her to get away from fans and gets under Don’s skin with a few choice words about the quality of silent movie actors, setting Don to doubt that he is a good actor. They bump into each other again at the party where Kathy jumps out of a cake. And the love story begins.

As the overture comes to an end, the hustle and bustle of the movie studio has been transformed with a few select props to outside Graumann’s Chinese Theatre. Don and Lina are making their appearance in front of fans and Don relates how he became the famous movie star. Fit as a Fiddle is a delightful flashback to his and his best friend, Cosmo Brown’s, humble beginnings. From here, the story hits the boards running and the song/dance numbers just keep coming.

Singin’ in the Rain is based on the MGM movie of the same title, originally starring Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor.

Grant Almirall and Rohan Browne alternate as Don Lockwood and on opening night (23 September) we were treated to the talents of Rohan Browne. Gretel Scarlett was Kathy Selden and Jack Chambers played Cosmo Brown.

This talented trio were just magical together in their numbers and stupendous in their portrayal of their characters. Jack Chambers was especially great singing and dancing Make ‘Em Laugh, where he slapsticks his way through the comedy number. They were also more than ably supported by Robyn Arthur (Dora/Miss Dinsmore), Mike Bishop (RF Simpson) and Rodney Dobson (Roscoe Dexter).

Lina Lamont, (Erika Heynatz) was excellent and had down pat the shrill, uncultured voice that makes this character one of the unfortunates that does not progress from silent to talkie movies. Her song in the second half, What’s Wrong With Me? as the gentleman sitting beside me said, sounded like strangled cats. Lina adds a comedy element, with her antics and pitiful screen acting. Erika was totally delightful in this role.

This musical is chock full of tap dancing, and has an uplifting feel to it, even though the songs are by no means modern, having been written by Brown and Freed in the 1930’s. They are, however, the perfect rhymes, phrases and melodies to take the audience back to the late 1920’s.

But, of course, the one song we were all waiting for – Singin’ in the Rain – does not disappoint. It was absolutely sensational, with the skies (sprinklers) opening up and drenching the stage in water. Rohan Browne tap-danced and splashed his way through this downpour, getting soaked to the skin in the process, again reminiscent of the classic Gene Kelly scene.

This also provided more than a few laughs for audience members who were not seated in the first three rows, as the dance moves purposely kick water off stage. (The audience members had been provided with plastic ponchos prior to the start, so if you are seated there for a performance, you will be fine). And if you don’t get enough of this number first time around, it has a reprise at the end of the show with the whole company!

The stage set was the inside of a movie studio with the Monumental Pictures name over the top of a huge door centre stage, with the various apparatus required such as ropes for opening and shutting curtains and a large fly wheel used to open the doors. The orchestra was tucked away quite neatly above and behind this massive façade. The floor was inset with a slightly sunken dance floor, capable of being danced on wet or dry. Props came on and off seamlessly for the various scenes, often being moved by the chorus members themselves.

I particularly liked at half time that the crew were costumed and looked like movie crew of the day, as they mopped up the stage.

The costumes were a blaze of colour, set in the period of the roaring twenties. There were, of course, some fabulous outfits as we follow Don and Lina through the film world, such as Lina’s French Revolution pink dress where they try to hide a microphone, which generates a lot of laughs. I loved the scene with the plane and the girls in their star spangled banner outfits for the number Beautiful Girl (another movie scene).

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